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Hochul downplays key meeting with political rival Tom Suozzi

Gov. Kathy Hochul on December 6, 2023
Don Pollard
/
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks on Dec. 6, 2023.

Gov. Kathy Hochul confirmed Wednesday that she summoned Tom Suozzi — the likely Democratic nominee to replace George Santos in Congress — to come to Albany to meet with her before the party agrees to nominate him to run in the Feb. 13 special election.

Suozzi, who for six years held the congressional seat recently occupied by Santos, decided in 2022 to challenge Hochul in the Democratic primary for governor. In that campaign, Suozzi referred to Hochul as an “interim governor.” Hochul replaced Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in disgrace in 2021.

Suozzi also disparaged the governor and her husband, a former U.S. Attorney who was counsel to the Delaware North Corp., as fostering a culture of corruption. He also ran ads saying Hochul was soft on crime, a tactic also used by Hochul’s Republican opponent in a close general election.

A report in The New York Times said Hochul made numerous demands on Suozzi in the meeting, including that he strongly back abortion rights and that he would not run a campaign that undermines the state’s Democratic Party.

The governor, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, confirmed that she called the meeting but said it was merely to determine whether Suozzi would indeed be the best candidate to take back the seat and help Democrats eventually regain control of the House.

“I wanted to see polling, I wanted to talk about strategy. I wanted to know what his chance of success would be,” said Hochul, who added she’s seeking to “put forth the strongest candidate” who can partner with President Joe Biden.

Hochul did acknowledge that Suozzi apologized to her for saying that her family was corrupt.

“That was an important conversation to clear the air,” she said. “It was in his interest to make sure the conversation went well.”

Suozzi, who has ties to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and is an ally of state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs, is expected to be nominated later this week to run in the Feb. 13 special election.

And as other races for 2024 heat up, Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced he’ll primary Representative Jamaal Bowman, over Bowman’s criticism of Israel’s conduct in the ongoing conflict with Hamas. Hochul said she won’t be taking sides in that fight.

 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.