In a video announcement, James highlighted her New York roots as well as her work as attorney general and former New York City public advocate.
“I’ve spent my career guided by a simple principle: stand up to the powerful on behalf of the vulnerable, to be a force for change,” James said. “We can do this if we stand up and speak out together.”
The next gubernatorial election in New York will be held in November 2022.
James, 63, has been weighing a run at New York’s top job for months and could become the first Black woman in American history to be elected governor of any state.
With James officially launching her campaign, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams expected to formally enter the race soon and New York Rep. Tom Suozzi, a moderate from Long Island, rumored to be considering a bid, New York Democrats face the prospect of a combative and expensive primary that is likely to highlight the deep divisions among the party’s moderate and progressive factions.
For their progressive allies, the prospect of James and Williams vying for the same position — along with political support and campaign contributions — is an uncomfortable one. Both are Brooklyn natives who have cultivated strong loyalties from New York City’s liberal leaders and organizations like the Working Families Party, which, along with other activist-aligned organizations, is keen to elect a progressive after a decade of warring with Cuomo.
James, who has won elections at the city and state level, rose to national prominence earlier this year when her investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo revealed a “pattern” of inappropriate behavior that led to his resignation soon after. James’ office also returned a damaging probe that found the state Department of Health under the Democratic governor had undercounted the number of Covid-19 deaths among nursing home residents during the height of the pandemic in the state.
James has won the admiration of Democrats in New York and around the country for her aggressive action against the National Rifle Association, which she is seeking to dissolve as part of a lawsuit alleging rampant corruption among its senior leaders. James’ office is also investigating the Trump Organization and its officers in a wide-ranging probe to determine whether it improperly inflated the value of assets to obtain loans and insurance or lowered the values to pay lower taxes.
Early polling suggests that Hochul will begin the contest with a modest advantage. In a Marist survey from earlier this month, Hochul led in a three-way race with 44% against James and Williams, who came in at 28% and 15%, respectively. Thirteen percent of the registered Democrats polled were undecided.
Marist also tested a four-way hypothetical matchup by adding Cuomo, who retains $18 million in campaign funds. Hochul dropped to 36%, James remained in second with 24% and the disgraced former governor finished third, with 19% to Williams’ 9%. Cuomo is unlikely to mount what would be a stunning comeback attempt so soon, but he has accused James of running a politically motivated probe against him and could deploy his war chest to aid another candidate.