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

NEW YORK NOW - 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.