NY primary election: Who's running for governor and what do they stand for?
As New York hurtles toward its gubernatorial primaries, candidates are making their last efforts to court voters over hot button issues like crime, government corruption and abortion rights.
Between the Buffalo Bills stadium deal, several high profile Supreme Court cases and a number of recent criminal incidents, including May’s mass shooting in Buffalo, those hoping to be New York’s next governor have no shortage of talking points on the campaign trail.
Gov. Kathy Hochul will aim to hold onto the role she took in August, when she replaced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo after he resigned following a swirl of sexual harassment allegations.
Hochul has painted herself as a steady, experienced hand in government, pointing to her ability to understand what everyday New Yorkers want and need, and vowing to bring transparency to Albany. In recent weeks, she’s championed her actions in the last days of the state Legislature’s session to pass stricter gun laws in the wake of a shooting that left 10 people dead in a Buffalo grocery store.
Her Democratic primary challengers include Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi, a vocal centrist who has accused Hochul of being corrupt and soft on crime; and Jumaane Williams, New York City’s Public Advocate who has carried the torch for the party’s progressive wing and championed tenant and housing rights, education and mental health support.
The three faced each other in a debate last week and will do so again on Thursday, in the last Democratic debate before the primary election.
On the Republican side, GOP designated nominee Lee Zeldin, a Long Island congressman, leads the pack, with Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City mayor and Republican politician Rudy Giuliani; former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and businessman Harry Wilson rounding out the Republican primary slate.
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When are the primaries?
New York’s gubernatorial primaries will take place on Tuesday, June 28. Early voting begins across the state on Saturday, June 18.
A primary for New York Assembly members will also take place on June 28. Primaries for New York congressional representatives and state Senate members is scheduled for Aug. 23.
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How are candidates polling?
Hochul holds a strong lead over her opponents, with 57% of Democratic support statewide, according to a Monday poll released by Emerson College, PIX11 and The Hill. Suozzi is polling at 17% of Democratic voters, and Williams at 6%.
Among the GOP candidates, Zeldin is polling the best statewide, with 34% of likely Republican voters statewide saying they’d support him in the upcoming primary. But Giuliani is besting Zeldin in New York City, with 25% support there, according to the poll results.
Astorino and Wilson are maintaining a modest level of support, with 16% and 15% statewide Republican support in the Emerson College poll, respectively. Giuliani carries 13% of statewide Republican support.
What to know about who’s running
Hochul, 63, is the incumbent Democratic governor of New York, who took office in Aug. 2021 after serving as lieutenant governor since 2015. A Buffalo native, Hochul is the first woman governor of the state and the first upstate politician to hold the role since the 1920s.
What to know
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.
As governor herself, Hochul has focused on vaccine campaigns and public safety measures against COVID-19, criminal justice reform and most recently, changes to the state’s abortion protections and gun laws.
“No governor has done more in less time than I have to address gun violence,” she said onstage at a Democratic gubernatorial debate last week.
During the debate, her opponents drew attention to her endorsement from the National Rifle Association during a 2012 congressional bid in Western New York, with Williams noting that the U.S. is “10 years behind because people in Congress were doing the bidding of the NRA.”
Hochul also rebuffed attacks on the Buffalo Bills stadium deal, which ultimately directed $850 million in state and local funds toward a new home for the team in Orchard Park, and her support for tightening New York’s bail reform laws.
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Suozzi, 59, is a Democratic congressman from Glen Cove, Nassau County, and a longtime political figure in New York. He is a moderate voice compared to some of his opponents.
What to know
Suozzi won his congressional seat in 2017 and previously served as Nassau County Executive in the 2000s. He also mounted a Democratic gubernatorial primary challenge against former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2006, which was unsuccessful.
His congressional background included legislation to raise the cap on local and state tax deductions.
Suozzi’s current gubernatorial campaign, during which he’s called himself a “common sense” Democrat, has focused mainly on crime. He has repeatedly pointed at Hochul’s record as evidence that she’s not focused on reducing criminal activity in New York.
“Guns are flooding our streets and she refuses to fix bail reform as violent offenders continue to be released into our community,” Suozzi said in a campaign ad released this week.
Suozzi is also focused on lowering taxes and affordability for everyday New Yorkers.
Jumaane Williams, 46, is the New York 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. He is of Grenadian heritage and grew up in Brooklyn, coming up through New York’s public schools. He has aligned his campaign with the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.
What to know
Prior to Williams’ current role, he served on New York 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.
He ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, but was defeated by Hochul.
His campaign has focused on tenant rights, aggressive approaches to climate change and tackling issues of crime and mental health in ways that help people maintain dignity.
“Right now our state needs to move forward - from a pandemic, from an era of scandal and from old ways of governing that have failed so many for so long,” Williams said in a campaign ad.
Zeldin, 42, lives in the Long Island hamlet of Shirley and was elected to represent New York’s 1st congressional District in 2014. He was reelected to a fourth term in that role last year.
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 to know
Zeldin won the state Republican party’s designation at its convention in March, capturing 85% of the vote there and giving him an automatic spot on the Republican primary ballot.
Issues he 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.
In a debate Monday with his Republican opponents, Zeldin went on the offensive against challenger Harry Wilson, calling him a “Never Trumper" and insinuating that Wilson does not fully align with Republican values.
Zeldin has been a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump. His campaign issues focus on crime, transparency in state government and slashing energy prices and other costs to consumers.
Giuliani, 36, was born into politics, with his father Rudy Giuliani serving as New York City Mayor from 1994 to 2001. Giuliani served on the Trump campaign in 2016, eventually being promoted to special assistant to the president in 2019.
Following his days in Washington, he worked as an on-air contributor and political analyst at Newsmax Television.
What to know
Giuliani has experienced a surge in support from New York City voters, and came across as a level-headed, issue-focused candidate in the face of tension and bickering at Monday’s Republican debate, hosted by WCBS-TV. He participated virtually because of the studio’s COVID-19 vaccination policies — he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
At the debate, he took aim at policing policy in New York, saying he would bring back elements of “broken-window” policing that characterized his father’s tenure in New York City.
“New Yorkers want to be safe in their neighborhoods again,” he said in a statement accompanying his crime prevention plan earlier this month.
He is also supportive of ending all COVID-19 mandates, repealing bail reform and strengthening the security of voting in New York.
Astorino, 55, 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. He was nominated by the state Republican Party to run against Cuomo in 2014.
What to know
Astorino’s tenure at the helm of Westchester County saw him reduce property taxes, negotiate labor contracts and close public-private partnerships for Playland Amusement Park and Westchester County Airport.
Now, he’s aligned with many of his Republican opponents in lowering taxes statewide and repealing bail reform. Like Zeldin and Giuliani, Astorino also has close ties to Trump, telling Politico that he's known Trump a long time and considers him a friend.
Astorino also supports term limits and generally reforming state governance, and investing in business and infrastructure.
Wilson is a Johnstown native who now lives in Westchester County. He’s the chairman and CEO of MAEVA Group, a financial services company, and has expertise in turning around struggling companies. He served on an auto task force in 2008 under former President Barack Obama’s administration, which helped reorganize General Motors and Chrysler in the wake of the recession.
He ran for New York Comptroller in 2010, losing to Thomas DiNapoli.
What to know
Wilson, who has labeled himself as “an outsider who couldn’t be bought” on his website, vowed to enact a tough ethics plan and term limits for all public officials.
“Insider politicians got NY into this mess. Only an outsider can get the Empire State out of it,” he said on Twitter Monday.
Though he is pro-abortion, in contrast to the other Republican candidates, he said in Monday’s debate that he’d like to focus more on New York’s economy and government transparency than social issues like abortion or same-sex rights.
Sarah Taddeo is the New York State Team Editor for the USA Today Network. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or on Twitter @Sjtaddeo. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Please consider becoming a digital subscriber.