ALBANY, N.Y. — Rep. Tom Suozzi on Monday jumped into the 2022 race for governor of New York, increasing the size of the declared Democratic primary field to four candidates.
The Long Island resident, who is serving his third term in Congress, characterized himself as a “common-sense Democrat” who shouldn’t be given a label like “moderate.” But it’s clear he’ll be running as a centrist, attempting to win support from party members who might otherwise back Gov. Kathy Hochul, who took office in August following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo.
Hochul is already facing primary challenges from New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and state Attorney General Tish James, both of whom have begun to seek support to Hochul’s left. Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is also exploring a run.
“The far right and the far left have gone too far, and they’re stopping us from getting things done,” Suozzi said in a campaign launch video.
Voters are “sick of all this finger-pointing,” he said on a Zoom press conference Monday morning. “They want commonsense elected officials who are focused on getting stuff done for people, not about messaging. They want somebody who actually has the experience … I’ve been doing this for 28 years.”
Suozzi has been using that message as he made appearances throughout the state in recent months. He was the most prominent elected official to back Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s successful write-in campaign this fall, arguing that Democrats need to rally behind problem-solvers rather than ideological purists. And when Brown handily defeated socialist India Walton, the Democratic nominee, that gave Suozzi some evidence to say that message resonates with voters.
The congressman’s entrance into the high-profile governor‘s race makes prognosticating an already complicated gubernatorial field even more difficult. With two New York City candidates running against Hochul — and potentially a third in de Blasio — the incumbent would become the primary favorite if she ran up her numbers in the city’s suburbs and her base of upstate.
But Suozzi could makes that path more difficult. The former mayor of Glen Cove and two-term Nassau County executive hasn’t registered much in the polls yet, but has a message that’s clearly designed to connect with moderate Democrats in his corner of New York. And he says he thinks it’ll catch on more broadly.
“My message is going to resonate all around the state,” he said. “I want to reduce taxes, I want to fight crime, I want to get homeless people off the streets, I want to continue to fight for the environment, I want to help the kids in our failing schools, and I have the plans to do those things and the proven experience of getting things done.”
That issue of reducing taxes was Suozzi’s major platform when he last ran for governor. In 2006, he fell just shy of 20 percent of the vote, launching a long-shot primary bid against then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Taxes have remained a major focus of Suozzi’s political efforts, with Long Island regularly ranking among the highest-taxed places in the country. In recent months, he was one of the loudest champions of a federal deal to roll back a federal cap on state and local tax deductions.
Suozzi had $3.1 million in the bank as of October. Numbers for most of the candidates won’t be available until January, but that leaves him with a good chance of having a larger war chest than any of the candidates other than Hochul.
His entrance into the race will also have down-ballot effects as New York lawmakers prepare to enter the homestretch of the redistricting process. Long Island has about four seats in the House, a number which is poised to fall to 3.76. That means that at least one of the districts represented by Suozzi or Rep. Kathleen Rice will need to stretch further into Queens than it does now.
Democrats are well-positioned to dominate the mapmaking process in New York. And the reduction of one incumbent to protect means they could have more flexibility in making an adjustment like this.