In just under six weeks, New York state voters will get a chance to select the candidates for governor and State Assembly. With no disrespect to that branch of the Legislature, and having been an Assembly member myself, it is obviously the race for governor that is the most significant one from the standpoint of the millions of New Yorkers who will cast their ballots.
New York is a state that tilts heavily toward the Democratic Party, so the party’s primary contest on Tuesday, June 28, will more than likely choose the person who will run our state for the next four years. I’m not ignoring the fact that there’s a Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, but with the highest vote concentration in the downstate region, a big Republican vote from upstate won’t be significant enough to drown out the heavy Democratic enrollment elsewhere.
Candidate Tom Suozzi, another member of Congress, has spent a substantial amount of money on television ads introducing himself to the general public. He has a list of promises on taxes, crime and a variety of other issues. But considering the fact that he’s running against Gov. Kathy Hochul, who already has the job, Suozzi has yet to tell voters why they should choose him over Hochul, who would be the first woman elected governor in state history.
Suozzi is running as a right-of-center candidate in a state where most of the voters who show up for primary elections lean to the left. Whether the progressives will turn out for Hochul is still an open question.
The recently passed state budget was a big victory for Hochul. While some armchair critics have blamed the lateness of the spending plan on the governor, the delay was partially caused by her insistence that there be bail reform changes in the package. Because the new budget had so many of Hochul’s proposals, the Senate and Assembly leadership refused to attend the traditional news conference following its passage.
Having served as chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee for 10 years, I can attest to the fact that the new spending plan spreads equal amounts of money throughout the state, as opposed to previous budgets, which were heavily weighted toward New York City and Long Island. The city got substantial amounts of money for health and day care workers and big dollars for mass transit. Long Island was a big winner, with record amounts of school aid, money for road improvements and for clean water projects.
Suozzi has been critical of the approval of public funds for a new stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Historically, western New York, like most upstate areas, has been an orphan when it comes to state dollars. If there were a grant of state money for a football stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, you’d hear the same gripes from upstate voters. Previously, Gov. Andrew Cuomo awarded funds for numerous upstate programs, but many, like a Buffalo solar factory, produced no economic gain.
There is no doubt that crime will be a big issue for voters, but the responsibility for New York City’s current crime wave is an issue for Mayor Eric Adams, and can’t be shifted to the state. The controversial bail reform law that was signed by Cuomo has now been amended with revisions aimed at giving judges more discretion over criminals with gun charges and others with histories of violent crime.
Thanks to recent revelations about an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision that may overturn Roe v. Wade, Hochul has set aside $35 million in funds for women in need of abortions where appropriate. There are no differences between the two Democrats on this issue, but the governor has the money, so she has the upper hand.
Suozzi has one self-made disaster to deal with when it comes to the LGBT community. His recent description of Florida’s controversial so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law as “reasonable” resulted in some serious pushback against him that will be hard to controvert. How bad a hit he will take is still up in the air. The electoral clock is ticking, and six weeks go by quickly. Suozzi is facing a big challenge to capture the attention of the voters, and at this point he has failed to get any big wins on the campaign trail, which leaves him where he started — on first base.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.