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Attorney General Tish James drops bid for governor, will seek reelection

 New York Attorney General Tish James
Gino Fanelli
/
CITY
New York Attorney General Tish James

New York Attorney General Letitia James is dropping out of the 2022 race for governor, saying she still has work to do on investigations that include probes into former President Donald Trump’s business dealings and the National Rifle Association.

James' decision brings the number of declared candidates in the Democratic primary down to three.

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

She had joined the race in November, after issuing two key reports earlier this year that led to the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. James found that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, and that he and his top aides undercounted by 50% the number of deaths at nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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."

“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. I am running for re-election to complete the work New Yorkers elected me to do."
New York Attorney General Tish James

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.

Hochul said she respects James tremendously and is looking forward to appearing with her on the statewide ticket.

“This is a very bad day for Donald Trump and the NRA,” said Hochul.

The governor said she is running her campaign as an underdog and is taking nothing for granted. She said she sees “warning signs” in the 2021 Republican wins in the governorship of Virginia; the close race in New Jersey where Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, narrowly won reelection; and GOP victories on Long Island.

“I have been heeding that warning,” Hochul said. “As leader of the New York State Democratic Party, it is also on my shoulders to pull it together and have unity in our party. Because we have to make sure that the Republicans do not get a foothold anywhere.”

Hochul said that includes fighting for Democrats to hold seats in the state Senate, Assembly and Congress.

James 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 who thought she was out of the race.

So far, constitution lawyer Zephyr Teachout, Assemblymember Clyde Vanel, attorney Dan Goldman, and former state Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo have each declared their candidacy. State Sen. Shelley Mayer was in the race but dropped out Thursday once James said she was running for reelection.

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

Copyright 2021 WXXI News. To see more, visit WXXI News.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
Dan Clark