Hochul Leads Early Poll for Governor’s Race, 3/4 of NYers Say No to Cuomo Comeback

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks after being sworn in as New York’s 57th governor during a ceremony in the Red Room at the State Capitol. (Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

Gov. Kathy Hochul leads a new poll of likely Democratic candidates for the state’s top seat ahead of next year’s primary and election season, and the vast majority of New Yorkers don’t want disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to run again.

Hochul got 44% support from New York State residents, with State Attorney General Letitia James coming in second at 28% and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at 15%, with 13% unsure, according to the Marist Poll released Tuesday, Oct. 12.

“It’s fair to say that she is entering an election season as the early frontrunner with the others, including former governor Andrew Cuomo, as underdogs,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion at the namesake college in Poughkeepsie, during a Zoom web conference with reporters Tuesday morning.

Neither James nor Williams have officially announced their candidacy, but rumors have been swirling in recent weeks that they will join the race for the Governor’s Mansion in 2022.

In a four-way race that includes Cuomo, Hochul still comes out on top but drops 8% to 36%, followed by James at 24%, Cuomo at 19%, and Williams at 9%, the pollsters found. Cuomo has also not announced any intentions to run.

However, 77% of New Yorkers and 74% of Democrats said they did not want Cuomo to run to reclaim the office he resigned from in August due to mounting sexual harassment allegations detailed in a bombshell investigation by James’s office.

In order to have a shot at a comeback, Cuomo, who still has an $18 million campaign war chest on hand, would have to “divide and conquer” the field by pushing James to the left and Hochul to the right, positioning himself in the middle, according to Miringoff.

“Just saying, ‘I did a good job but let’s ignore the nursing home, let’s ignore the James report,’ and reclaim it is not going to be a convincing argument,” he said.

The poll surveyed 822 adult residents in the state between Oct. 4–7, including 732 registered voters, 389 of whom were registered Democrats.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly also eyeing a potential bid to move from City Hall to Albany, but Marist did not poll for his support.

Fifty days after being sworn in to replace Cuomo on Aug. 24 and become New York’s first woman governor, 49% of state residents approve of Hochul’s performance versus 31% who disapprove and 20% who are unsure.

Her approval is consistent across three regions of the Empire State at 49% in New York City, 48% in the suburban counties around the city, and 49% upstate.

“She clearly has established herself with the Democrats as governor statewide,” Miringoff said. “The notion that she’s not well known and views of that sort don’t hold up in the numbers.”

More than half, or 55% gave her a thumbs up for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 47% approved of her handling of the economy.

However, Hochul did not do as well when respondents were asked to rate her performance, with 52% saying her work was only “fair” or “poor,” and 39% giving her “excellent” or “good” marks.

For the potential primary field, Hochul maintains the largest share of support across the state, even in the more contested grounds New York City where she earned 35% of the vote in the Five Boroughs in a three-way race, with James getting 25%, and 39% of the city in a four-way race compared to 25% for the AG.

New Yorkers are generally not feeling good about the direction the state is headed, with 54% saying it’s going the wrong way compared to 39% responding it’s going in the right direction.

Outside of this August during the tumultuous transition of power in Albany, the latter percentage is the lowest “right direction” the pollsters have captured since Oct. 30, 2010, when a mere 18% said New York was going in the right direction, the week before Cuomo was elected to his first term as governor.

A spokesperson for Williams said his team continues to “explore” a run and was “very encouraged and excited” by the poll.

“It shows him not only in a very strong position at this stage in the process, but with more growth potential than any other potential candidate once his message has reached New Yorkers,” said William Gerlich in a statement. “Polls are a snapshot in time and need to be viewed with the proper perspective, but this poll confirms what Jumaane has heard as he travels the city and state speaking with New Yorkers – that Albany needs transformational change, and we need to renew New York with a bold transformative vision and leader.”

Hochul’s campaign and the remaining two potential candidates did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.