By Linda Nwoke
The New York gubernatorial race is on, with the Democratic party’s primary just a few weeks away. There is a mixture of candidates ranging from —contestants with deep-rooted political backgrounds and strong ties to their communities to others with less political experience.
Yet, they have a vision for a brighter and better New York.
Presently, seven contestants are vying for the position —three Democrats and four Republicans, and there is a consistent theme among the candidates, such as taxes, crime, environment, and healthcare. Only a few are focusing on addressing issues that will mainly benefit immigrants.
Governor Kathy Hochul is the serving Governor and the first woman to hold the office of Governor after then-Governor, Andrew Cuomo resigned. If she wins later in 2022, she will become the first elected woman-Governor.
The 63-year-old Buffalo native served as lieutenant governor from 2015 to 2021 before making history as the state’s first woman governor to occupy the role since the 1920s.
She self-describes herself as an “Independent Democrat” and has pushed proposals that opposed sitting Democratic governors over the years.
As Governor, Hochul has made public safety measures and vaccine campaigns against COVID-19, infrastructure improvements, and criminal justice reform across cities in New York. She has fought against college assault and sexual harassment and remains a reliable supporter of women’s rights.
Hochul drew attention to opposing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in the past. She went as far as saying that she would work with ICE to have immigrants deported when they applied for their driver’s licenses. She later changed her stand when she became Lieutenant Governor.
Congressman Tom Suozzi from Long Island brings over twenty years of political experience, and previously ran for Governor in 2006. The 59-year-old Glen Cove, Nassau County native, describes himself as a “Common-sense” Democrat. He is a longstanding political figure in New York. He rides on his experience and background as key attributes to help him deliver on the job. He has a strong history of standing up for immigrants and was honored by the New York Immigration Coalition for “creating an environment of welcome and inclusion for immigrants.”
Suozzi has opposed Hochul’s policy as Governor regarding bail reform, crime, and proposed changes in residential zoning. Over the years, he has pushed legislation to raise the cap on local and state tax deductions. Some of his political priorities include fighting to restore New York’s economy post-COVID-19 by lowering taxes, mitigating harmful changes to the environment, and reducing crime.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams takes pride in being progressive-minded. If elected, he will be the state’s first elected Black Governor. The 45 years old Brooklynite of Grenadian heritage and a populist politician is self-described as a democratic-socialist. He is building his platform on progressive policies.
Williams has served on the New York City Council for over a decade and pushed legislation to reduce gun violence and stop minority targeted policies. Over time, he has supported the passing of nearly 70 bills while in council.
As a gubernatorial candidate, he wants to create a state that caters to the need of the marginalized people of the state – the people in dire need of protection, challenges in housing, and mental health. These are the leading contenders of the democratic party. The winner from the June 28 Democratic primary will likely face off against the winner of the Republican primary in a general election come November.
The four key candidates are Rob Astorino, Andrew Giuliani, Rep. Lee Zeldin, and Businessman Harry Wilson. Winning this election remains crucial for Republicans as they will be trying to recover a 20-year loss to Democrats from the time of Governor George Pataki.
Robert Patrick Astorino was the two-term Westchester County Executive who presently operates as a media consultant and businessman. The 55-year-old worked in television and radio before he became elected in 2010.
He was considered a strong contender under the New York Republican Party against former governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014. Outside New York City, he won in more than 45 counties out of the state’s 57 counties. He is a strong contender in the governorship race based on evidence from the past race. While serving, he delivered many development projects – including closing public-private partnerships, reducing property taxes, and negotiating labor contracts.
Andrew Giuliani is the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and political advisor during the Trump administration. The 36-year-old ‘Manhattanite’ New Yorker was born into politics and had a background in finance before returning to politics.
While serving at the White House, he worked on policy changes around lowering taxes, deregulation of businesses, and serving on an opioid crisis task force. As part of his achievement, he preserved MTA workers’ jobs by facilitating CARES Act funding. He worked for the total refund of the First Responders Fund to the Treasury Department, as reported on his campaign site.As a gubernatorial candidate, he wants to bring back New York’s ‘lost glory.’
Representative Lee Zeldin is a congress member, an officer, and Army Reserve. The 42-year-old Long Islander has over a decade’s experience in politics. He is a favorite of New York’s Republican leaders. They chose him as a candidate to run for Governor, and many GOP voters in New York counties support his candidacy. However, he faces strong contenders like experienced Rob Astorino and Andrew Giuliani, with a long political family history.
As a member of congress, he has promoted issues on healthcare for disabled veterans, treatment and support for drug users linked to the opioid crisis, and environmental measures to protect the coastlines on Long Island.
Harry Wilson is a Republican businessman who lives in Westchester County but is a Johnstown native and the son of Greek immigrants. His campaign focuses on lowering taxes, fixing crime issues, cleaning up corruption, and supporting the police to fight crime around the state.
If elected Governor, Wilson intends to recruit and increase the salaries of police officers, enforce term limits for public officials and repeal cashless bail.
Regardless of who wins, community members, especially across the boroughs, want the winner to deliver on pertinent issues that affect their daily lives. There is a genuine concern about crime, issues of safety, economic support from the government, taxes, and the high cost of living.
In Brooklyn, William Davis of East New York says, “In New York, you have to mind your business, but now you must pay attention to things happening around you. Before, I didn’t care. But now everyone is watching, especially when you are on the subway. It sucks, but everybody wants to be alive. I want anyone who wins as Governor to focus on crime, removing drugs from the streets, taxes, and inflation! A lot of this stuff.”
A similar concern was held by Keith Matheo of Park Slope in Brooklyn, “The crime situation is a real problem, and it has been for a long time. But the pandemic has made it more deadly. People are struggling on all levels. I want a governor that will increase the presence of the police on the street and push policies that will help the people who need it.”
Immigrants in Queens want the new Governor to focus on security, economic hardship, and immigration. According to Adriana Morote, “I feel like everyone is going through something, but I also feel like there is no security. The subways aren’t safe. Even the streets are not safe. Nowhere is safe, yet you cannot continue to stay at home because you have to make money to survive. But people also want a better society. She continued. “I want security. It’s not good to feel insecure, feeling you’re going to be harassed or robbed. I want to move around the whole of New York and feel safe from criminals and immigration agencies.”
Tasha Jones from Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the Bronx feels that “Everyone is scraping by in New York, especially now. It’s hard times for so many people. We need someone who can relate to the struggles of the average New Yorker and is responsive. Hochul might be able to do the job if she gets all the support.”
Keith Squires from New York says, “Everybody’s suffering out there. We are going through COVID and everything it has caused. You can’t afford many things in life, and everybody’s trying to survive every day. I want someone who cares about the people more than party politics. Someone who will put New Yorkers’ interest first on issues of taxes, healthcare, policing,” he lamented.
Various experts shared similar views, but a few predicted who might win, although this might be too early. Phil Singer, Founder and CEO of Marathon Strategies says, “New York’s upcoming gubernatorial election will be the state’s closest since 1994. Lee Zeldin will serve as a serious Republican challenger to Democratic Party rule.”
Yet, Amy Cohen, Co-Founder of Families for Safe Streets, says, “Governor Hochul will become the Safe Streets Governor. New York State will be the leader of a safe street for the rest of the country.”
As the new Governor’s race rages, the average New Yorker, including immigrants, wants a leader who will make a living in New York a thing of pride rather than concern.