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NY AG Tish James Drops Bid for Governor, Will Seek Reelection
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New York Attorney General Letitia James
Credit: New York NOW

New York AG Tish James Drops Bid for Governor

New York Attorney General Letitia James is ending her campaign for governor, she said in a statement Thursday, bringing the number of declared candidates in the Democratic primary down to three.

James was Hochul’s closest competitor, according to recent polling, shifting a significant number of Democratic votes to any of the three remaining candidates.

In a statement, James said she would instead seek reelection as New York Attorney General, a position she was first elected to in 2018. 

“I have come to the conclusion that I must continue my work as attorney general. There are a number of important investigations and cases that are underway, and I intend to finish the job,” James said. “I am running for re-election to complete the work New Yorkers elected me to do."

It's unclear why James decided to end her campaign for governor less than two months after she announced.

A poll from Siena College this week showed her with support from 18% of Democrats in a four-way Democratic primary for governor between her, Hochul, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Rep. Tom Suozzi.

Hochul, meanwhile, had support from 36% of Democrats polled for the survey.

When asked about James' decision to drop out of the race Thursday, Hochul said she would support her bid for reelection, and that there were no hard feelings.

"I respect her tremendously, always have," Hochul said. "I support her reelection, yes."

Suozzi, the latest declared candidate in the Democratic primary, said he understood James' decision in a tweet Thursday.

"I offer my best wishes to Attorney Gen @TishJames as she continues to pursue her deep calling to public service. She has tremendous responsibilities as the sitting AG & I understand her desire to devote her energies to seeing through & continuing the important matters before her," Suozzi tweeted.

Williams, who was considered most politically aligned with James compared to the other two candidates, said he was "glad" to be able to continue working with her while she remains in her current office.

"I’m grateful for our collaboration, and I’m glad to be able to continue that work together to bring bold, progressive, transformational change on behalf of the people of New York," Williams said.

Whoever wins the primary will compete in the general election against the Republican nominee. The party has designated Rep. Lee Zeldin as the party's presumptive nominee, but other candidates are competing for the nomination as well.

James had been rumored to be interested in the governorship for months, but those talks escalated in August after her office released a lengthy report on several claims of sexual harassment made against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

That report, which found the claims to be credible, ultimately led to Cuomo's resignation days later. Cuomo has denied the claims.

James, herself, has had a meteoric rise in state politics and government in New York. After serving on the New York City Council, she was elected as the New York City Public Advocate in 2013, and left that job after she was elected attorney general in 2018.

Now that she's reentered the race for attorney general, she'll face several challengers in the Democratic primary that thought she was out of the race.

So far, constitutional lawyer Zephyr Teachout, Assm. Clyde Vanel, attorney Dan Goldman, and former state Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo have each declared their candidacy.

A spokesman for Vullo said in a statement Thursday that she would stay in the race.

"Maria is running for Attorney General based on her decades of legal experience and track record in the private and public sectors fighting for New Yorkers, women's rights and justice for all," the spokesperson said. 

"We have had an incredible response to the campaign since we launched just a few weeks ago and our momentum continues to build. We look forward to the campaign ahead." 

State Sen. Shelley Mayer, who had also announced a run, decided to drop out of the race Thursday and put her support behind James.

It's unclear if the other declared candidates will remain in the race. The primary election will be held in June.

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