Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, is set to announce on Thursday that she will run for governor, according to six Democratic leaders briefed on her plans.
Ms James, her chief of staff and her top political advisers have started telling their allies in state unions and Democratic political circles in recent days that she intends to challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul in the Democratic primary next year, and could make its plans public early on like Thursday, potentially via video.
Several Democrats, who all requested anonymity to detail the private conversations, said the attorney general’s team was seeking commitments for early approvals that could help build momentum for a campaign.
Ms James’ team did not confirm early Wednesday afternoon that they intended to participate in the race, but an adviser later said a decision had been made, ending months of deliberation.
“Attorney General Letitia James has made a decision regarding the governor’s race,” Councilor Kimberly Peeler-Allen said in a statement. “She will announce it in the next few days.”
Ms James’ candidacy would guarantee an expensive, high-level Democratic primary that sets up a marquee test of party leadership in a strongly Democratic state. It will also establish a vigorously contested race that some party leaders had hoped to avoid after years of infighting.
Ms James, 63, would enter the primary as the most formidable challenger to Ms Hochul, New York’s first female governor, who has taken a quick lead in sparse public polls. The two were scheduled to appear Wednesday night at the same reception in New York for a group that supports women running for public office.
A former member of Brooklyn’s New York City Council, Ms James has won a city and statewide post and would offer voters the chance for another historic first: If elected, Ms James could to be the first black woman ever to be elected governor in the United States.
As Attorney General, she was acclaimed by the Liberals for taking on the National Rifle Association, investigating former President Donald J. Trump and overseeing the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations against Andrew M. Cuomo which ultimately led to his resignation as governor. But it was not yet clear to allies or analysts how Ms James would seek to differentiate herself politically or ideologically from Ms Hochul.
“It will be a defining moment to have a sitting governor challenged by the current attorney general of the same party who are both historic in their own right,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat from Manhattan, who has warned that he was unaware of Mrs. James’ plans. “This is the start of understanding the differences between the candidates.”
The exact timing of Ms James’ announcement still seemed uncertain on Wednesday. If she doesn’t announce by the end of the week, her plans could collide with two major events on New York’s political calendar next week: the election of New York mayor and the Democrats’ annual conclave. State in Puerto Rico.
A Democrat familiar with the thinking and deliberations of the attorney general said Ms James, who has examined the decision extensively, could still back down and announce an exploratory committee for the governor or run for another term as than attorney general rather than pursuing the summit. Publish. A late change in plan is not unprecedented in New York politics: Governor Mario M. Cuomo ditched planes that were waiting on the tarmac to take him to New Hampshire when he decided not to go. run for president in 1991.
So far this year, Jumaane D. Williams, the New York public attorney, formed an exploratory committee last month. Another black Brooklynite with an appeal to some on the left, he could compete with Ms. James for key demographic and ideological constituencies.
Other Democrats are still considering running, including Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City and Representative Thomas Suozzi, an outspoken centrist from Nassau County.
Ms James slowly positioned herself to run for weeks. She launched a statewide tour under the auspices of the Attorney General’s office, meeting with locally elected officials in the far corners of New York City. She has increased the ambitions of her fundraising. And his political team has hired a handful of high-profile consultants, including Ms Peeler-Allen and Celinda Lake, who was one of the top pollsters for President Biden’s 2020 campaign.
The James campaign’s patronage of some of the state’s largest public and private sector employee unions could be especially important in building the kind of financial and political resources it would need to compete.
But the question of whether she should run was particularly complicated for her. Ms James would relinquish a powerful and secure position to compete in a race she is not guaranteed to win, and some Democrats prefer her to stay in place as attorney general to see through existing cases, including one involving Mr. Trump and his companies.
Ms James and her advisers are also bracing for a wave of attacks from Mr Cuomo, who has an $ 18 million campaign war chest and has indicated he may attempt to meddle in the race. Mr Cuomo and his allies called the attorney general’s report that led to her demise as politically motivated and influenced by Ms James’ interest in running.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that he is manipulative and vindictive and knows that if she didn’t have the strength to stand up like she did, he would still be governor,” said John Samuelsen. , international president of the Transport Workers Union. , who has supported Ms James in previous campaigns. “He crushes axes with the best of them.”
As Ms James has deliberated, Ms Hochul has vigorously stepped up her own campaign operation.
She has garnered key supporters from Emily’s List, the influential national group dedicated to electing women who support the right to abortion, and Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference. She’s also raised heaps of money, going from a fundraiser to a high dollar value fundraiser, including a reception hosted on Tuesday evening by Bolton St. Johns, the lobbying firm of Albany, where tickets cost between $ 5,000 and $ 25,000.