GARDEN CITY, Long Island (WABC) -- State Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs personally endorsed Governor Kathy Hochul for governor next year, an early attempt to fend off an increasingly messy primary that could threaten to divide the party.
Jacobs and several other county chairs are believed to be encouraging the party to unite behind Hochul to avoid a contentious situation in 2022.
"Unfortunately, over the last few days, it seems that a number of candidates are becoming more anxious and the window is closing for some to make a decision," Jacobs said. "I am today announcing my personal endorsement for our governor, Kathy Hochul, to election of our governor once again."
Their fear is a far-left candidate could emerge from the primary and make it easier for a Republicans to compete in the general election.
Jacobs said Hochul has demonstrated her leaderships and that she can handle the job, that she's a pragmatic progressive moderate who can win, and that she's earned the support of state Democrats.
"I take nothing for granted, and those who say a Republican cannot be elected governor statewide in New York are foolish," he said. "It is certainly something we have to consider. I believe a party torn apart by multiple candidates in multiple primaries for multiple offices will exhaust precious resources and make us weaker in a year where we need to be strongest."
Jacobs added that he called former Governor Andrew Cuomo to tell him he would be endorsing Hochul.
"It was a courtesy call," he said.
He also admitted it "is possible" for the former governor to attempt to return to office next year, noting Cuomo "still has a significant campaign war chest."
"All I'm saying is it is best for the Democratic party to be as unified as possible," he said. "I think anybody that wants to run needs to put forward a clear rationale as to why they are different from the person that is there now."
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Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who has formed an exploratory committee for his own potential run, released the following statement blasting Jacobs' actions.
"Jay Jacobs' efforts to shield the current powerbrokers and power structures from a challenge aren't remotely surprising. His role, and that of the highest ranking Democratic officials in our state, should be to uplift Democratic candidates, Democratic voters, and democratic values. Instead, he is clinging to the systems that have empowered him, in the same way he and many others in Albany clung to Governor Cuomo - until it was politically impossible to do so, but long after it was in any way justifiable. Governor Hochul should be using this moment to demonstrate a new direction of leadership for the state party, not continuing the practices of Andrew Cuomo's Albany. If she, Jay Jacobs, or any other Democratic state leaders are more interested in supporting Democratic candidates than cynical incumbency protection, they would be focused less on avoiding a 2022 primary, where Jacobs should be impartial, and more on the 2021 general election where they still refuse to endorse the young Black female Democratic nominee for Mayor in New York's second largest city as she battles against a Republican-backed opponent."
Separately, Attorney General Letitia James, who says she hasn't yet decided if she plans to run for governor, launched a "HealNY" statewide tour that will deliver up to $1.5 billion to communities most impacted by the opioid crisis.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has hinted he might be interested in running for governor, said he currently focused on public schools after a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all Department of Education employees took effect.
"There is definitely still time to talk about the future," he said. "I've made very clear I want to keep serving the people of the city and the state."
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