ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Kathy Hochul has raised nearly $22 million for her election campaign, a huge sum that gives her a dominant advantage over a narrowing field of opponents in the Democratic primary.
Hochul’s haul, raised in just five months, dwarfed her closest competitors among both Democrats and Republicans, according to campaign finance filings by several candidates Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat representing Long Island, reported $5.4 million in campaign cash for his run against Hochul. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the most liberal of the major candidates for governor, reporting just $222,000 on hand.
On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, a conservative representing the eastern tip of Long Island, reported $5.6 million for his campaign for governor. Andrew Giuliani, the son of Republican former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, reported a $188,400 campaign war chest.
Hochul has nabbed both donations and endorsements from many of the state’s most influential unions, lawmakers and advocacy groups. She’s spent nearly $600,000 on campaign consultants, on top of more than $320,000 on fundraising and roughly $100,000 on polling.
Her top individual donors range from comedian Jerry Seinfeld to Douglas Eisenberg, a New York City real estate investor and developer whose firm is one of the city’s biggest landlords. More than one-fourth of her reported campaign contributions came from political action committees and unions, such as the Hotel, Restaurant, Club Employees, and Bartenders Union.
Her strong showing early in the race has already forced out potential competitors for the nomination. Attorney General Letitia James withdrew from the race and former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that he wouldn’t run.
Still, Suozzi has vowed to mount a serious challenge to Hochul. She was New York’s lieutenant governor until Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in August amid sexual harassment allegations and a looming impeachment trial. The former governor has denied he ever assaulted anyone or intended to offend anyone.
Suozzi has criticized Hochul on law and order issues, saying he wants to undo parts of a sweeping bail reform law that made it easier for nonviolent criminal defendants to remain free while awaiting trial.
He has also called for an attorney general investigation into Hochul’s use of state aircraft to attend political fundraisers.
In terms of total cash on hand, Hochul’s closest rival is Cuomo, who reported $16 million in campaign funds as of mid-January.
The former govenrnor reported spending nearly $1 million on his campaign last year, including $132,000 for law firms. In October and November, his campaign paid $32,500 to crisis communications firm Bulldog Strategies LLC.
Cuomo long planned to run for reelection. And last February, Cuomo said he was “truly sorry” for behavior that was “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”
It is unclear whether he might someday attempt a comeback. Cuomo hasn’t outright said he isn’t running for governor in 2022. His attorney, Rita Glavin, has been evasive when asked by reporters about Cuomo’s political ambitions, and he has kept some staff on his campaign payroll to wage a fight for his reputation.
Still, Cuomo faces a tight deadline if he does choose to run this year, and would likely have to do it without help from the Democratic Party establishment.
Polling done last fall indicated that his support among potential voters plummeted after the harassment allegations, although he has retained some support among Democrats.
Cuomo could also use his campaign war chest to boost other candidates. Azzopardi said Wednesday he didn’t have details about any potential use of Cuomo’s campaign cash.