Letitia James Declares Her Candidacy for N.Y. Governor

Letitia James Declares Her Candidacy for N.Y. Governor

Letitia James, New York Attorney General.

By Katie Glueck,  originally published in The New York Times. 

Letitia James, the New York attorney general who oversaw the inquiry into sexual harassment claims against former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that ultimately led to his resignation, declared her candidacy for governor on Friday, setting up a history-making, high-profile matchup in the Democratic primary.

She begins the campaign as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s most formidable challenger, and her announcement triggers a start to what may be an extraordinarily competitive primary — a contest set to be shaped by issues of ideology, race and region in a state still battling its way out of the pandemic.

Her announcement comes at a volatile moment in state politics, a day after Mr. Cuomo was charged in a sexual misconduct complaint based on the account of one of the women whose claims of sexual harassment were detailed in the attorney general’s report.

That development, Ms. James said, validated “the findings in our report,” and to her allies it further cemented the case for her leadership. But it has also added fresh fuel to Mr. Cuomo’s suggestion that her investigation was politically motivated, a message that may resonate with some of the voters who still view him favorably.

“I’m running for governor of New York because I have the experience, vision, and courage to take on the powerful on behalf of all New Yorkers,” Ms. James wrote on Twitter as she released her announcement video on Friday.

In the video, a narrator said that Ms. James was running “for good-paying jobs, a health care system that puts people ahead of profits, to protect the environment, make housing more affordable and lift up our schools in every neighborhood.” The video did not mention Mr. Cuomo by name.

Ms. James, a veteran Brooklyn politician and the first woman of color to be elected to statewide office in New York, is seeking to become the first Black female governor in the country; Ms. Hochul, who is white, is the state’s first female chief executive and the first governor in more than a century to have deep roots in western New York.

The race may have even broader implications as a key barometer of the direction of the Democratic Party in the Biden era. Ms. Hochul, of the Buffalo area, was once known as a more conservative Democrat, but she has increasingly moved leftward.

Ms. James, by turn, has plenty of connections to the relatively moderate Democratic establishment, but also has longstanding ties to the left-wing Working Families Party. It is not yet clear what issues she will use to differentiate herself politically from Ms. Hochul, but there is plainly the potential for vigorous clashes over how best to move the state and party forward.

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