New York governor's race: Here's everything you need to know about who's running

Sarah Taddeo
New York State Team

Andrew Cuomo’s precipitous fall from political power as a three-term governor of New York created an open race at the top of state government, setting the stage for a competitive Democratic primary in 2022.

Several of the candidates bring deep political backgrounds and strong ties to their communities. Others who are less experienced in politics jumped into the race in recent months, sharing their vision of a better and brighter New York with constituents. 

The race started with additional buzz due to its history-making potential.

Sitting Gov. Kathy Hochul already took a historic step as the first woman to hold the office following Cuomo’s resignation (although a 2022 win would cement her as the first woman elected as governor), while Attorney General Letitia James would have been the first black woman to take the role. 

In early December, James ended her run for governor, saying she would instead seek reelection in her current role. 

New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has shown strong support behind his progressive policies and would be the state's first elected Black governor, while Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi brings over two decades of political experience to the table and first ran for governor in 2006. 

Attorney Paul Nichols also jumped into the Democratic race with a platform built on affordable housing and closing the wage gap. 

The winner of the June Democratic primary will likely face Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island congressman who captured the Republican designation at the party’s convention in March. 

Other Republicans campaigning include Andrew Giuliani, businessmen Harry Wilson and Derrick Gibson, and Rob Astorino, who faced Cuomo in 2014. Republicans will be looking to win the governor's seat for the first time since 2002, when then-Gov. George Pataki won a third term.

Here’s a primer on who's running on the Democratic and Republican sides:

Kathy Hochul

New York Governor Kathy Hochul talks about her time leading New York while in her office at the state capitol in Albany Oct. 25, 2021.

Who is she? 

Hochul, 63, is the current governor of New York, having assumed the role following the resignation of her predecessor. A Buffalo native, Hochul served as lieutenant governor since 2015 prior to her history-making rise as the first woman governor of the state, and the first upstate politician to hold the role since the 1920s.

What is her political background?

Hochul spent more than a decade on the Hamburg Town Board, a town outside of Buffalo, and was elected to a four-year stint as Erie County Clerk in 2007. She drew attention there for opposing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, but later changed her position on that issue when she became lieutenant governor. 

She secured an upset win in a Republican-leaning upstate congressional district in 2011, but her tenure there was short-lived, with Republican Chris Collins defeating her in 2012, after the district was redrawn.  

Hochul has labeled herself in the past as an “independent Democrat,” having pushed for proposals that were in opposition to sitting Democratic governors over the years. She has also fought against sexual harassment and assault on college campuses and is a reliable supporter of women’s rights. 

As governor, Hochul has focused on vaccine campaigns and public safety measures against COVID-19, criminal justice reform and infrastructure improvements in New York’s cities. 

More on Hochul's administration:Kathy Hochul lays out first budget as NY governor

Jumaane Williams

Lt. Gov. candidate and NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams speaks during a panel discussion organized by Indivisible Westchester at Manhattanville College in Purchase July 26, 2018.

Who is he? 

New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, 45, joined the gubernatorial race in November 2021, building his platform on a background of progressive policies that hit on some of the year’s most inflammatory issues. 

He is of Grenadian heritage and grew up in Brooklyn. He was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome and ADHD as a teenager, but came up through New York’s public schools to gain a Master’s Degree from Brooklyn College. 

What’s his political background? 

Prior to his role as public advocate — an elected position that chairs New York’s City Council and acts as an ombudsman between the electorate and the city’s government — Williams served on the City Council for a decade, pushing legislation and programs that would curb New York City’s use of stop-and-frisk policies and reduce gun violence using community-centered approaches. Williams helped pass nearly 70 bills during his time on the council. 

He ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, but was defeated by Hochul. 

Videos on Williams’ campaign website show him marching in rallies, riding the subways and being arrested during demonstrations, underscoring his message as a populist politician.

“I’ve spent my life fighting for and creating change on behalf of the people – in the streets and in the halls of government​," Williams said in a statement when he announced his run. 

“In this moment, I believe we need bold, principled progressive leadership in Albany to move our state forward with justice and equity, no matter the political winds."

Tom Suozzi 

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference outside the USPS Jamaica station, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York.

Who is he? 

Tom Suozzi is a Democratic congressman from Glen Cove, Nassau County, and a longtime political figure in New York. Suozzi, 59, is a moderate voice compared to some of his opponents, and he said he has both the background and bipartisan chops needed to make change in Albany. 

What is his political background?

Suozzi served as mayor of Glen Cove on Long Island in the 1990s and Nassau County Executive in the 2000s, winning his congressional seat in 2017. 

His congressional background included legislation to raise the cap on local and state tax deductions. 

This will not be Suozzi’s first attempt at the governorship. He ran against Eliot Spitzer in 2006, with Spitzer handily winning the primary, but resigning in March 2008 in scandal. 

If elected as governor, Suozzi’s priorities would include lowering taxes, reducing crime, mitigating harmful changes to the environment and getting the economy in good shape after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suozzi has taken aim at Hochul’s policy decisions during her brief tenure as governor so far, taking her to task over bail reform, crime and proposed changes in residential zoning. 

Paul Nichols 

Who is he? 

Nichols is a New York native and attorney who served as counsel to Sen. Leroy Comrie, D-Queens, and worked with nonprofits and local churches. 

What is his political background? 

Nichols has more than a decade of experience serving in state government, he told The City.

His platform includes proposals for affordable housing and reduced rents in New York, addressing the wage gap between the rich and poor and incentivizing New Yorkers to spread out across the state to relieve population density in the downstate areas. 

“(Nichols’) passion for uplifting the lives of people around him stems from his unwavering belief that all people should have access to equal opportunities and the best resources available,” Nichols’ website reads. 

Lee Zeldin 

In this May 22, 2018 file photo, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., speaks during a news conference, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Who is he? 

Zeldin, 42, lives in the Long Island hamlet of Shirley. He also served in the U.S. Army, deploying to Iraq in 2006, and currently serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve. 

What is his political background? 

Zeldin was elected to the New York state Senate in 2010, representing the state’s third Senate district on Long Island.

Four years later, he defeated longtime incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop for a seat in the U.S. House representing New York’s 1st Congressional District in Suffolk County. He was reelected to a fourth term in that role last year. 

In a June 2021 straw poll in Albany, New York’s Republican leaders overwhelmingly chose Zeldin as their preferred choice to run for governor, with Zeldin taking 85% of the vote, which was weighted to favor those counties with a higher population of GOP voters, according to the state Republican Party.

Eight months later, Zeldin won the state Republican party’s designation at its convention in March, capturing 85% of the vote there. That means he automatically gets a spot on the Republican primary ballot in June. 

But he may very well face at least one primary opponent, as Rob Astorino and Andrew Giuliani have suggested they intend to force one. Since neither got 25% of the vote at the convention, They’ll have to gather thousands of petition signatures across the state to secure a place on the ballot.

Issues Zeldin championed in Congress include healthcare for disabled veterans, treatment and support for drug users embroiled in the opioid crisis and environmental measures to protect the coastlines on Long Island. 

More on Zeldin's campaign:Lee Zeldin nabs Republican designation, aims to take on Gov. Hochul in November

Rob Astorino 

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino presents details of his proposed budget at the county office building in White Plains Nov. 10, 2016.

Who is he?

Astorino, 54, is a lifelong Westchester County resident who spent decades working in television and radio before being elected to two terms as Westchester County executive starting in 2010. 

What is his political background? 

While at the helm in Westchester County, Astorino was nominated by the New York Republican Party to run against Cuomo in 2014. Astorino lost to Cuomo but took 41% of the statewide vote; Cuomo ultimately won just 11 out of the state’s 57 counties outside New York City. 

At the time, Astorino asked voters to help him end “Cuomo’s cesspool of corruption.” 

Now, with Cuomo having been mired in scandal, “many now realize Astorino was years ahead of his time in calling out Cuomo’s corruption and incompetence,” Astorino’s website claims. 

His tenure as Westchester County executive saw him reduce property taxes, negotiate labor contracts and close public-private partnerships for Playland Amusement Park and Westchester County Airport, among other development projects.

He ran for the state Senate in 2020, but lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Peter Harckham. 

Astorino faced criticism in late 2021 when, at a rally to protest a student vaccination bill at the office of Democratic Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a rally attendee held up a sign emblazoned with a Nazi swastika. 

Astorino later condemned the imagery on social media; "Regardless of who the woman was or why she was there, if I saw the sign I would have stopped and had it removed," Astorino tweeted. "Absolutely inappropriate.”

Andrew Giuliani 

Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, declared his Republican campaign for governor in New York last year. He will have to collect 15,000 signatures to appear on the primary ballot in June.

Who is he? 

Giuliani, 36, raised in New York City, was born into politics, with his father Rudy Giuliani serving as New York Mayor from 1994 to 2001. He has a background in finance before turning to politics. 

What is his political background?

Giuliani served on the Trump campaign in 2016, eventually being promoted to special assistant to the president in 2019. During his time at the White House, he worked on policy changes around lowering taxes, deregulating businesses and serving on an opioid crisis task force. 

Following his days in Washington, he worked as an on-air contributor and political analyst at Newsmax Television. 

“It’s time for a change,” Giuliani said in a video on his gubernatorial campaign website. “Like my parents before me, New York is in my blood. I know who we are, what we can be, and where we can go. As your governor, let’s write the greatest comeback story ever.”

Michael Carpinelli

Lewis County Sheriff Michael Carpinelli speaks against the NY SAFE Act during a Second Amendment rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. Carpinelli is running for governor against Gov. Kathy Hochul and a slate of Republican and Democratic candidates.

Who is he? 

Carpinelli was raised in Kingston, Ulster County, and spent time in the U.S. Army Reserves before embarking on a law enforcement career across the state. He took police positions in Kingston and Rochester before being elected to his current role as Lewis County Sheriff in 2011. 

What is his political background? 

Carpinelli is a longtime critic of former governor Andrew Cuomo's policies, specifically the New York State Safe Act, which Carpinelli rallied against in Albany in 2013. 

His gubernatorial platform would favor deregulation in the Adirondack Park, the reopening of state prisons and support and funding for law enforcement, according to an August interview with the Press Republican. 

“We are not a people of two states divided by our differences, but rather a people of one state anchored in faith, family and freedom," Carpinelli said on his campaign website.

Harry Wilson

Republican businessman Harry Wilson speaks to reporters at the 2022 NY GOP Convention, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Garden City, N.Y. Wilson threw his hat into the gubernatorial race in Feb. 2022.

Who is he? 

Wilson is a Johnstown native who now lives in Westchester County with his family. He’s the chairman and CEO of MAEVA Group, a financial services company, and has expertise in turning around struggling companies. 

What is his political background? 

Wilson ran for New York Comptroller in 2010, losing to Thomas DiNapoli. He served on an auto task force in 2008 under Barack Obama’s administration, which helped reorganize General Motors and Chrysler in the wake of the recession. 

His campaign is focused on lowering taxes and fixing crime issues around the state. Wilson labeled himself as “an outsider who couldn’t be bought” on his website, vowing to enact a tough ethics plan and term limits for all public officials. 

“(Wilson’s) not part of the Albany political club where corruption seems to just be another day at the office. Instead, he’ll clean it up,” his website read. 

Derrick Gibson 

Derrick Gibson, R- Queens, announces he is running for the office of New York Governor outside the New York state Executive Mansion on March 13, 2021, in Albany, N.Y.

Who is he? 

Gibson is a New York City native living in Queens. He worked in the auto and construction industries, eventually opening his own businesses in both, according to his website.

What is his political background? 

Gibson has been a vocal critic of Cuomo, launching his campaign for governor against what he characterized as Cuomo’s “tyrannical behavior” and “poor response to the pandemic.” 

Gibson was a supporter of President Donald Trump and appeared at “Stop the Steal” rallies, according to his campaign website. Gibson has been in the spotlight for taking controversial stances on Twitter, including showing support for The Proud Boys, a far-right group, and comparing mask-wearing to slavery. 

His platform would support Constitutional rights and advocate for school choice, law enforcement and small businesses.

Includes reporting from New York State Team reporters Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell. 

Sarah Taddeo is the New York State Team Editor for the USA Today Network. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at or on Twitter @Sjtaddeo. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Please consider becoming a digital subscriber.