Representative Thomas Suozzi, a Long Island Democrat, announced on Monday that he would enter the race for governor of New York, broadening the field of candidates running against the incumbent, Kathy Hochul, and becoming the first Democrat to take direct aim at her support among moderate suburban voters.
Mr. Suozzi, who has most recently focused on federal negotiations over raising a cap on state and local tax deductions, has positioned himself as a vocal centrist who is quick to lash what he casts as the excesses of his party’s left wing.
His decision to run for governor, which he made official at a virtual news conference, will intensify and complicate the battle for moderate voters in one of the nation’s marquee Democratic primary contests next year.
“I don’t believe it’s about going to the far left or to the far right,” said Mr. Suozzi, who outlined an agenda that includes lower property and income taxes, robust efforts to fight crime and reduce homelessness, and a focus on combating the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy.
“I’ll work with anybody,” he said. “It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about doing the correct thing to actually help people.”
Mr. Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive who is billing himself as a “common-sense Democrat,” could cut into parts of the coalition Ms. Hochul is seeking to assemble on Long Island and in suburbs around the state.
Though Mr. Suozzi is a strong fund-raiser, he nevertheless will face steep challenges in a statewide Democratic primary.
While early polling has limited value ahead of a primary slated for next June, he was in the single digits in a recent survey. Ms. Hochul, the state’s first female governor, has consistently led the field in early polls and has an overwhelming head start in fund-raising and endorsements.
Other candidates also have the kind of history-making potential that Mr. Suozzi, a white man, does not — most notably Attorney General Letitia James, who could be the first Black female governor in the country should she win. She and Ms. Hochul are widely seen as the two most formidable candidates at this stage of the race.
Congressional Democrats are expected to face a brutally challenging environment in next year’s midterm elections, but Mr. Suozzi insisted that had no bearing on his decision to run.
“I feel like this whole, you know, left-right extremist thing in our country is killing our country and it’s killing our state,” he said. “I don’t think I could sit on the sidelines and watch what’s happening, watch what’s happening to our state, and not be engaged in an effort to try and bring it forward.”
Mr. Suozzi’s candidacy for governor could risk the Democrats’ hold on his largely suburban House seat at a time when they are battling nationally to retain control of the chamber.
Without a popular incumbent there to defend it, Republicans would likely make the seat a top pickup target in New York. Democrats could find themselves spending large sums to defend the seat or be forced to give it greater consideration during the once-in-a-decade redistricting process.
Diverting more Democratic voters to the…
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