Cuomo aides say he will not seek reelection, plans to endorse Hochul

A source inside Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s administration tells The Chronicle that Cuomo will not seek a fourth term in office and is planning to endorse longtime Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul in a well-choreographed series of ‘retirement ceremonies’ that will begin later this autumn.  The Governor continues to resist calls for his immediate resignation and intends to serve the remainder of his term, unless any of the criminal investigations against him prompt his ‘unforeseen arrest’, the source explains.

“Governor Cuomo will be actively campaigning on the trail for Kathy, and will be making sure every voter remembers their twelve years of accomplishments and progress in every corner of the State,” the aide says.  “Governor Cuomo isn’t going to disappear.  He’s going to be very actively making sure Hochul succeeds because her success will reflect on him.”

The decision follows the release of bleak polling data this week that indicates only 35% of voters would cast their vote for Cuomo, should he decide to run again.  The decision also comes just days after his former hand-picked State Party Chairman and four-term Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown suffered a stunning primary defeat to little-known political newcomer India Walton.

Earlier this week, the Assembly committee investigating a slew of sexual harassment and assault allegations against the Governor indicated that it intends to issue subpoenas and that the Governor will be included among those compelled to testify under oath.  Those interrogations will be conducted by the law firm Davis Polk, the selection of which by Speaker Carl Heastie had been criticized because of the firm’s close ties to senior Cuomo administration figures.

Hochul is wasting no time and intends to wage a serious, substantive, and well-funded campaign that she plans to staff with “political grown-ups” and seasoned operatives.  Her husband, William C. Hochul, the former United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, has been informally fielding phone calls from longtime political allies of the former Congresswoman in contemplation of her potential candidacy.

Leecia Eve, a former candidate for Attorney General and the Harvard-educated daughter of longtime Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, is expected to be Hochul’s running mate.  Camille Brandon, her former top political aide, a current Bolton St. Johns lobbyist, is expected to run the campaign.  Mike Deely, a regional representative with the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), will serve as the campaign’s primary spokesperson.

Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner is arranging accommodations for the campaign’s statewide headquarters and a permanent call center that will be conducting polling seven days a week.  Zellner has also made inquiries with local carpenters to contract the construction of a 40-seat board room table that he has referenced repeatedly as ‘the War Room’.

If Hochul is elected to office, it’s expected that former Economic Development Commissioner Howard Zemsky will serve as her Budget Director; that former Attorney General Dennis Vacco, a Republican, will serve as General Counsel for the Executive Chamber; that John Maggiore will serve as her Legislative Director; and that Buffalo businessman Patrick Whalen will serve as Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner.

Other Western New Yorkers are also in contention for senior administrative positions including Jill Jedlicka, the Executive Director of the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, who is a finalist for the position of Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns, a Republican, who is being considered for the position of Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV); and former Buffalo Councilman At-Large Charley Fisher III is being considered to lead the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Former Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Mayor Byron Brown, former Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, and Albany lobbyist Giorgio DiRosa are expected to ceremonially ‘Co-Chair’ her campaign.

It’s thought that B. Thomas Golisano, the founder of the Rochester-based Paychex, will serve as fundraising chairman.  Cuomo has already agreed to headline a slew of fundraising events for Hochul, including a private high-ticket affair at Golisano’s lakefront home near Canandaigua later this summer.  Jeremy Jacobs, Sr., the Chairman of the Buffalo-based Delaware North Companies, is expected to host a major fundraiser near his home in Manhattan in September. Cuomo will also appear at a fundraiser hosted by Jeffery Gundlach, the Buffalo-born bond trader, at his home in Santa Monica, CA.

Strategists familiar with her thinking say that Hochul will wage an ideas-oriented campaign focused heavily on uniting Democrats across Upstate New York, and battling aggressively on Long Island while leaving a crowded left-leaning field inside the five boroughs of New York City to split those primary voters.  Doing so would position her as the type of ‘centrist and sensible’ Democrat that is unbeatable in a statewide general election in New York.

Hochul has historically enjoyed the support of organized labor and intends to “lobby hard” for the endorsement of police officers’ unions across the state, but especially those on Long Island, the source postulates.

Attorney General Letitia James, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Congressman Gregory Meeks, and Congressman Hakeem Jefferies are all likely contenders in the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primary early next year.  Congressman Lee Zeldin, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra are each vying for the Republican nomination. 

Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout is rumored to be considering another bid for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination. She is a ‘favorite figure’ inside the Working Families Party.  

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