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Jumaane Williams, the New York City Public Advocate, formally enter race for governor

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams entered the race for governor Tuesday
Williams' campaign
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams entered the race for governor Tuesday

Jumaane Williams, the elected New York City Public Advocate, formally announced his run for governor in next year’s election Tuesday, teeing up a crowded Democratic primary that will split votes between at least three candidates.

Williams has prepped for a potential run for governor for months now, creating an exploratory committee, and going on a statewide listening tour to hear from voters.

He announced his candidacy Tuesday through a campaign video, saying he’d be a change agent in Albany if elected. He’ll compete in a primary against Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, and any other Democrat who decides to seek the governorship.

“Right now our state needs to move forward,” Williams said. “From a pandemic, from an era of scandal, and from old ways of governing that have failed so many for so long.”

Williams launched his political career about a decade ago when he took office as a member of the New York City Council representing part of Brooklyn. Among his accomplishments was a city law that banned employers from asking applicants about their criminal history.

When now-Attorney General Letitia James left her position as New York City Public Advocate to serve in her current role, Williams ran for the spot, and won the race in 2019.

It’s not the first time Williams has challenged Hochul. When she was lieutenant governor, Williams challenged her for the job, but lost by a tight margin of about 7%.

He’s expected to frame Hochul as a hold-over of the Cuomo administration, which came to an abrupt end in August after a report detailing several claims of sexual harassment against the former governor prompted his resignation.

Cuomo has denied the claims, and has continued to publicly challenge them since leaving office three months ago.

The report was released by James’ office, which Cuomo tasked with producing the report when the allegations first emerged in January. In her announcement video, James also highlighted her office’s work on that report, touting it to her advantage.

“I’ve held accountable those who mistreat and harass women in the workplace, no matter the offenders,” James said.

With Williams entering the race, some Democrats have suggested he could split the vote with James because both hail from Brooklyn. The borough typically has a strong influence over the politics of the party.

James’s campaign appeared unfazed in a statement Tuesday, welcoming Williams to the race.

“Throughout his career, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has been an important leader on issues from police reform to housing and we welcome him to the race,” the statement said.

Next year’s primary will be held in June.

Dan Clark is the host and producer of New York NOW, a weekly television show focusing on state government produced by WMHT in Albany. Clark has been reporting on New York state government and politics for the last six years, during which time he's worked out of the state Capitol in Albany. Clark reported for the national political fact-checking publication PolitiFact, the Buffalo News, the statewide political television show Capital Tonight, and most recently the New York Law Journal. At the New York Law Journal, Clark has focused on state legal challenges to President Donald Trump, as well as litigation concerning laws enacted by the New York State Legislature. Clark covered the Legislature in each role he's held and is a familiar face to state lawmakers and staff. Clark is a native of Afton, NY in Chenango County. He's lived in Albany with his husband since 2011.