Stunning the political world, Letitia James has dropped her quest for governor of New York State, and will instead run for re-election as state attorney general.
In a statement, James said, "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."
Gov. Kathy Hochul said James called her Thursday morning to inform her of those plans.
“All I can say is I respect her tremendously, always have. That has never been not the case, And we are going to do great things,” Hochul said. “I look forward to having her on the ticket as we head into the November election together.”
James launched her campaign in late October with a video message, but failed to gain traction. Since then, she has done very few public events, and many insiders agree that her heart just didn’t seem in it.
“I think there was an invisible primary that went on before Attorney General James got into the race,” Democratic consultant Chris Coffey said. “The governor has done a really good job of locking up some labor support, of locking up some elected support. And raising a lot of money.”
Hochul announced shortly after taking over as governor in August that she would seek a full term. She has since raised more than $10 million.
But James had a strong downstate constituency. And many were taken by surprise that she dropped out after just a month and half.
“Well, I think many people are surprised, because I think a lot of New Yorkers did see a path for Tish James,” said Christina Greer, a political scientist and Fordham professor. “It would be a little complicated with Bill de Blasio and Jumaane Williams in the race, but I think a lot of New Yorkers saw a path for Tish James to the left of Kathy Hochul.”
Remaining in the race is Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi, both of whom offered praise for James and wished her luck on her re-election campaign for attorney general.
Likely the biggest beneficiary of James’s decision is Hochul.
“I think this is a very, very good day for Governor Hochul,” Coffey said. “They were worried that even though their numbers were good, Tish James was obviously a popular sitting attorney general, Black woman, strong in New York City.”
James also faces the problem of not only Jumaane Williams, who like James, hails from Brooklyn, and would likely have siphoned off votes away from her. But also the specter of Mayor de Blasio, who may get into the race as well. He is also from Brooklyn, and showed up at 6% of the vote in a recent poll, even though he hasn’t even declared.