NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James formally announced Friday that she is running for governor, a widely anticipated move from the woman who oversaw an investigation into allegations that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed numerous women.
James announced her candidacy on Twitter, saying, “I’m running for Governor of New York because I have the experience, vision, and courage to take on the powerful on behalf of all New Yorkers.”
A campaign video cited the multiple lawsuits she filed against former President Donald Trump's administration and an investigation into deaths in New York's nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
James, 62, is the first woman elected as New York's attorney general and the first Black person to serve in the role. She's expected to be a strong challenger against Gov. Kathy Hochul, who had been Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, for the Democratic nomination.
Hochul, who is from the Buffalo area, entered office with a reputation as centrist who is working to bolster her ties to New York City, where James' political support is based.
James was born and raised in Brooklyn and made her first run for City Council as a candidate of the liberal Working Families Party. Her path to the nomination will be the obverse of Hochuls, trying to win over upstate Democrats who might be less progressive.
Before her bombshell report was released, prompting Cuomo's resignation, James had been known nationally for her frequent legal tussles with Trump.
Since she became attorney general in 2019, her office has investigated Trump's business affairs and filed dozens of lawsuits against the Republican's administration over federal policies on immigration, the environment and other matters.
“I’ve sued the Trump administration 76 times. But who’s counting?" James said in her kickoff video, making a playful shrug of her shoulders while looking into the camera.
James also filed a lawsuit accusing the National Rifle Association 's leaders of financial mismanagement, the latest in a string of regulatory actions that have delighted liberals but drawn complaints from Republicans that she has unfairly used her office to target political opponents.
While under public pressure in 2020, Cuomo authorized James to investigate allegations he had sexually harassed several women. The independent investigators she hired to conduct the inquiry released a report in August concluding that there were credible allegations from 11 women, including one aide who said the governor had groped her breast.
Cuomo has attacked James' report as inaccurate and biased, denied mistreating women and said he resigned in order to avoid subjecting the state to turmoil.
James has dismissed the charge that her investigation was politically motivated, saying Cuomo should take responsibility for his own conduct.
James made the announcement the day after a criminal complaint was filed against Cuomo in Albany, accusing the former governor of committing a misdemeanor sex crime of groping a woman in December 2020.
Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, said in a statement that the Democrat never assaulted anyone. He's due in court Nov. 17 to respond to the charge.
“Tish James abused her office to falsely accuse Governor Cuomo because she was afraid to confront him in an election and let the people decide," Cuomo's spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said in a statement Friday after James' announced her campaign.
Cuomo was once one of James’ strongest political allies.
As governor, he endorsed James for attorney general and headlined a fundraiser for her in 2018 as she ran in a four-way Democratic primary to replace Eric Schneiderman, who abruptly resigned amid allegations that he abused women.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have both said they are considering a run. Two other potential Democratic candidates come from Long Island: Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone and U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi, who lives in Nassau County.
On Friday morning, James and Hochul each made brief appearances at a downtown Brooklyn restaurant for a traditional preelection breakfast for Democratic power players.
Hochul thanked the crowd for supporting her as the state's first-ever female governor and implying in her remarks that she expected to win multiple terms as governor.
“I feel the weight of history on my shoulders because it's my responsibility to demonstrate that a woman can govern with strength, with heart and passion and fight for the people of this state. And so when I'm done with my terms, no one will ever question the ability of a woman to hold the highest office in this state or in this land," Hochul said.
James, speaking about 20 minutes after Hochul at the restaurant in her home turf, drew loud applause and asked, “Is Brooklyn in the house?”
The attorney general did not make any campaign remarks but urged attendees to vote in the city’s upcoming elections on Tuesday and think about “the threats to our democracy, to our freedom” including reproductive rights and threats to the environment.
“Let everybody know that Brooklyn and New York State — we’re one,” James said.
Her candidacy was quickly endorsed Friday by John Samuelsen, the international president of the Transport Workers Union, which represents 150,000 workers in the airline, railroad, transit industry and more.