By Ethan Stark Miller
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign gained a huge boost Thursday afternoon as she secured the state Democratic Party’s formal backing in its nominating convention.
Hochul won the party’s endorsement handily, receiving nearly 86 percent of the vote from its more than 400 committee members. Due to the convention’s rules, Hochul is automatically on the ballot for receiving over 25 percent of the vote and the party’s designee going into the primary for breaking 50 percent. In a speech following the vote, Hochul said her candidacy for a full term as New York’s first woman governor is the start of a new chapter for the Empire State.
“As the leader of this party, I’m declaring that a whole new day has dawned,” Hochul said. “One that is grounded in the belief that the power and organization must rise from the bottom up. And we reject the playbook that enabled only a few to succeed, while others were left behind.”
This new chapter would also turn the page on the decade-long reign of Hochul’s predecessor Andrew Cuomo, who stepped down six months ago over allegations that he sexually harassed about a dozen women. The former governor resigned shortly after the allegations were detailed in a report from New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
During each convention, which takes place every four years, the party’s committee members write the party platform and nominate candidates for statewide positions. This year the candidates include Hochul, James, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the U.S. Senate majority leader.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Hochul’s most serious competition, trailed far behind her with just 12 percent of the vote. And the remaining nearly 2 percent of the vote went to attorney Paul Nichols.
Because neither candidate received over 25 percent of the vote today, they’ll both have to petition to get on the ballot – the process of collecting a certain number of signatures most candidates must go through anyway. Both will have to gather 15,000 signatures from around the state to get their names on the ballot.
Williams said the Convention functioned as a coronation for Kathy Hochul and serves as an unfortunate reminder that while the governor may have changed last year, the power structures within the party and the state that enabled him are very much intact.
“In spite of that, I’m proud that our campaign received double the amount of support at this year’s convention than we did four years ago, when we ultimately came within 7% of victory despite being outspent by the party machine by a factor of 10,” Williams said. “I’m running to challenge the systems in place and represent 20 million New Yorkers across the state, not the donors who paid the governor $20 million dollars to preserve the status quo.”
“I’m an organizer by training and in the politics I practice, and so I’m excited to begin the petitioning process — an opportunity to meet New Yorkers where they are and hear about the issues they face, without charging them tens of thousands of dollars to see me at a fundraiser. I’m not going to let the way things have always been stand in the way of what they can be, a vision I’ll continue to share with New Yorkers,” he added.
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Long Island), another prominent candidate who didn’t participate in the vote, will also have to petition for ballot access. Suozzi’s spokesman Jason Elan told PoliticsNY the congressman chose not to put his name into the convention’s nominating process because they thought it was clear Hochul would win.
“The New York State Democratic convention is the ultimate insider event and any outcome is predestined,” Elan said. “This election will be won in the cities, towns and villages across the state, not in the Sheraton Hotel.”
Hochul was the clear favorite throughout the convention with a parade of speakers helmed by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, enthusiastically announcing their support for her. In her speech, Clinton said Hochul’s role as the New York’s first woman governor is living up the state’s history as the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement.
“I am so happy to support Kathy Hochul for a full term as governor of New York,” Clinton said. “I’ve known Kathy for a long time and I can tell you something everybody is learning. No one will work harder for the people of the Empire State, every county, every community, she is a governor for all of us.”
This story first appeared on PoliticsNY.com