Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is considering a run against his replacement and fellow Democrat, Gov. Kathy Hochul, as part of an attempt at a comeback after resigning in disgrace amid multiple accusations of sexual harassment by former aides, according to people familiar with the matter.
Cuomo, who reluctantly left office last year after denying the harassment allegations, has been fielding calls from supporters about a possible run against his former lieutenant governor. His aides have been conducting their own internal voter polling on a potential matchup, these people explained. Those who declined to be named did so in order to speak freely about private matters.
After a recent public poll from Emerson College and The Hill showed Cuomo was a few points behind Hochul, the former governor received calls from allies encouraging him to run against Hochul, a person close to Cuomo said. That survey, which was published last week, showed Cuomo just four points behind Hochul with likely New York Democratic primary voters. It’s been one of the rare polls showing Cuomo that close to Hochul with primary voters. Hochul is up for reelection in 2022 and is in a primary fight with Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y. as well as New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
A campaign against Hochul could set up a major primary battle if the former governor were to get the thousands of voter petition signatures needed to get on the ballot by the April deadline. The primary is scheduled for June. Cuomo was in the middle of his third term before his resignation. He was publicly hinting at running for a fourth term before the harassment allegations surfaced. Hochul has said she wants to institute a two-term limit for New York’s governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller.
The Emerson survey also showed 59% of all New York voters polled trust the findings of state Attorney General Letitia James, which detailed the accusations against Cuomo and found he “violated federal and state law.” Cuomo has continued to deny the allegations and has accused James’ investigation of being politically motivated.
Although supporters are encouraging him to run, there have been many leaders within his party who have said publicly and in conversations with CNBC that they are hoping he doesn’t run, after multiple scandals followed him out of office. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that an audit shows Cuomo’s administration failed to publicly account for the deaths of almost 4,100 nursing home residents during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think it would be a bad mistake,” Jay Jacobs, the chair of the New York Democratic Party, told CNBC in an email on Tuesday. He added he doesn’t believe Cuomo is going to run for anything in the 2022 election cycle.
Hochul was one of the Democrats who ripped Cuomo in the buildup to his resignation, calling his alleged behavior “repulsive.” She has since distanced herself from Cuomo and his administration. President Joe Biden and the entire New York congressional delegation called for Cuomo to resign.
Still, the person close to Cuomo, when discussing whether he’s ruled out running against Hochul, pointed to Cuomo’s recent speech at a church in Brooklyn, where he said, “I am blessed, I have many options in life and I am open to all, but on the question if I am at peace, No I am not.” Cuomo also used the speech to point out that multiple district attorneys did not bring criminal charges against him.
He plans to speak again in the Bronx on Thursday in front of a group of Hispanic ministers. The speeches coincide with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign through Cuomo’s still-active political operation. Cuomo’s committee started the new year with over $16 million on hand. Hochul’s campaign has over $20 million as of its last public filing.
Richard Azzopardi, Cuomo’s chief spokesperson, told CNBC in an email Wednesday that the former governor has not signaled to allies or his inner circle whether he will make a run for Hochul’s seat. But his statement did not address a possible future campaign against the sitting governor or what sources describe as ongoing internal polling on a future matchup.
“As the Governor has said since the beginning this was the weaponization of politics to do what couldn’t get done at the ballot box, and it’s important to him and his family that the record get set straight and efforts to rewrite history don’t succeed,” Azzopardi told CNBC. “As he has said all along, he has thoughts and opinions about the direction of this state and the Democratic Party as a whole and he won’t hesitate to make them known.”
Beyond the discussion with others about possibly making a run and his recent public appearances, Cuomo’s active political war chest has spent well over $2 million on a TV ad campaign, according to online ad tracker Medium Buying. Those ads appear to be an attempt at revitalizing Cuomo’s image since his resignation.
Cuomo’s latest ad, titled “The Record,” goes through his accomplishments as governor, including major infrastructure initiatives, improved gun laws and the increase of the minimum wage to $15.
However, some Democratic Party officials have publicly pushed back on that Cuomo-led effort.
Dan Pfeiffer, a former advisor to then President Barack Obama, tweeted in response to the Cuomo ad campaign: “Go away.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the increase in the minimum wage to $15 is one of the accomplishments former Gov. Andrew Cuomo lists in his latest ad. A previous version mischaracterized the increase.