Hochul Outpaces Foes by Raising a Record-High $21.6 Million for Campaign

New York Times - Tue Jan 18 14:48

New York|Hochul Outpaces Foes by Raising a Record-High $21.6 Million for Campaign


The fund-raising haul positions Gov. Kathy Hochul, who leads her rivals in polls, as a prohibitive favorite to win her first full term as governor of New York in November.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, speaking at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s headquarters on Monday, held a commanding lead among Democratic rivals in a Siena College poll.
Credit...Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

Five months after ascending to New York’s highest office, Gov. Kathy Hochul plans to submit filings on Tuesday that show her election campaign has already raised nearly $21.6 million, a record-smashing sum that positions her as the prohibitive favorite to win a full term as governor this fall, and likely the most dominant figure in New York State politics.

The filings were expected to show that Ms. Hochul, a Democrat from Buffalo who is the first woman to lead the state, took in roughly $140,000 per day, on average, between her swearing-in last August and last week. She has more than $21 million in cash on hand, according to her campaign.

Ms. Hochul’s fund-raising strength has already helped drive her most competitive foil, Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, from the race entirely, and likely played a role in the decision by Bill de Blasio, the former New York City mayor, to announce Tuesday morning that he would forgo a run for governor after months of flirting with it.

But the source of some of her donations may also prove to be a liability for Ms. Hochul, complicating the image of a governor who took office in the shadow of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal with a pledge to enact ethics reforms and bring about “a new era of transparency” in Albany.

Behind the stunning sums are expected to be a cast of New York’s most well-financed special interest groups, in many cases the same multimillionaires, labor unions and business groups whose checks have bankrolled Democratic politicians, including Mr. Cuomo, for decades and pulled some of them into an ethical morass.

Albany lobbying firms jockeyed to hold private fund-raisers for the governor within weeks of her taking office, and have steered clients with business before the state to do the same. Many of the state’s largest landlords have cut five-figure checks. So have builders reliant on massive state-funded infrastructure projects.

As if to underscore the threat, the campaign finance reports were due the same day that Ms. Hochul plans to reveal her first budget as governor, a plan that is expected to swell to around $200 billion and include proposals sought by politically active hospitals, the state’s largest health care union, and even the trade group representing liquor stores.

A poll of the race released by Siena College on Tuesday showed Ms. Hochul with a commanding lead ahead of June’s Democratic primary and relatively strong reviews from voters for her attempts to overhaul the governor’s office, jump-start New York’s lagging economic recovery, and manage a resurgent outbreak of the coronavirus.

Forty-six percent of Democrats said that they would support Ms. Hochul in the primary, compared to 11 percent who would back Jumaane Williams, the city’s left-leaning public advocate, and just six percent who would support Representative Thomas Suozzi, a Long Island moderate. Twelve percent had said they would support Mr. de Blasio, a progressive with eight years’ worth of experience running the nation’s largest city, before he said he did not plan to run.

Mr. Suozzi, who is aggressively challenging Ms. Hochul from her right flank, plans to report on Tuesday that he raised more than $3 million since entering the race in November, and transferred another $2 million from his congressional campaign account, according to Kim Devlin, his senior adviser.

Though he trails in the polls, the funds indicated that Mr. Suozzi would have the resources he needs to mount a primary challenge in the near term, and his campaign said it was prepared to announce a slew of new hires.