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Congressman Tom Suozzi joins crowded Democratic primary field in race for NY governor

Representative Tom Suozzi of Long Island announced on Monday that he is leaving Capitol Hill to run for governor of New York, joining an increasingly crowded field of Democratic candidates. 

Suozzi joins current Governor Kathy Hochul, who took over the job in August after former Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations, New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York City public advocate Jumaane Williams. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has not ruled out a run when he has been asked about it by reporters. 

"I'm a common sense Democrat. I don't believe it's about going to the far left or to the far right," Suozzi told reporters on Monday. "It's not about being politically correct. It's about doing the correct thing to actually help people."

Suozzi previously ran for governor in 2006 when he lost the nomination to then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer by about 60 points. Over the weekend, Suozzi turned down a role in New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams' administration, saying that he believed the best way he could help Adams is "in elected office."

Election 2020 New York
In this Aug. 18, 2020 file photo, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., addresses the media during a news conference, in the Queens borough of New York. Suozzi survived a tough challenge to win a third term representing a district that includes Long Island's wealthy north shore.. John Minchillo / AP

Since he was first elected in 2016, Suozzi has been a more moderate Democrat in Congress, most recently pushing for the reconciliation package to include a provision that repeals the "SALT" deduction cap. The state and local tax deduction cap limits the amount of state and local taxes that taxpayers can deduct from federal taxes to $10,000. Suozzi highlighted this fight in a campaign video released Monday. 

Suozzi said he wants to lower New York's property and income taxes, fix ailing schools and put more police on the streets to fight crime.  Suozzi, from suburban Long Island, represents a different part of the state as the other frontrunners, with Hochul coming from Western New York and James and Williams representing New York City. 

Suozzi has often pushed back against the left wing of the Democratic Party. He backed Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's ultimately successful write-in campaign in November against Democratic Socialist candidate India Walton, who defeated Brown in the primary. Suozzi told WXXI News after that campaign that Democrats have to "stand up to the far left because that destroying the party."

In the crowded field, Hochul has already leveraged her first few months in office to earn solid approval ratings from voters. A Morning Consult poll from earlier in November found 50% of New Yorkers approve of the job she has done as governor.  Hochul's campaign recently announced she has raised $10 million since filing to run for a full term over the summer. 

"Even though her tenure is just starting, I think we're already seeing the power of incumbency," said Alex Sommer, a Democratic strategist at political consulting firm Tusk Strategies. 

James has also earned statewide recognition as New York's Attorney General after her office's investigation into Cuomo led to his resignation. Her office has also sued pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid crisis, filed dozens of lawsuits against the Trump administration, investigated former President Trump and battled with the National Rifle Association. 

The challenge for Hochul, James, Suozzi and others running for governor will be cobbling together a coalition of diverse voters in such a large state.

"Despite New York being so blue, it's a really diverse population and Buffalo is a much different place, almost a separate country, than New York City," Sommer said. "Trying to put together a coalition of such a huge state, such a geographically diverse and racially and ethnically diverse state is a huge challenge."

Suozzi is the 18th House Democrat to announce their retirement or a run for another office this cycle. He said the prospect of Democrats moving into the minority in 2022 "wasn't a big factor." 

"Congress is great and I'm hoping we're going to win the majority again," Suozzi said. "I'm running for governor because I believe this is the job that I am made for. Everything I've done has prepared me for this particular job at this particular time."

"Democrats are dropping like flies because they know their days in the majority are numbered and are making the wise choice to quit rather than face defeat next November," said Calvin Moore, communications director for the House GOP-backed Congressional Leadership Fund.

New York's redistricting commission is still in the process of redrawing the Congressional lines and a Democratic proposal still keeps Suozzi's suburban Long Island seat competitive.  While the redistricting commission has until mid-January to finalize their proposal, it's expected that the Democratic-controlled assembly in Albany will tweak the maps to their political favor and potentially shore up the 3rd districts' Democratic lean.

Two Republicans had already launched campaigns to challenge Suozzi before his announcement, businessman George Devolder-Santos and emergency room nurse Kevin Surdi. Progressive Democrat Melanie D'Arrigo, who got 25.7% of the vote against Suozzi in her 2020 run, launched her campaign earlier this year.

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure my congressional seat goes to another common sense Democrat. That's the way to win my seat," Suozzi said.

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