Hochul has big lead in Democratic race for governor, poll finds

A new Siena College poll shows Governor Kathy Hochul with an early double digit lead in the Democratic primary for governor.  

However, Attorney General Letitia James and Hochul have about the same level of favorability among voters.

Siena College pollster, Steven Greenberg, says this shows the power of incumbency.

"Maybe they see Kathy Hochul as the governor now," Greenberg explained. "She’s out there talking about the pandemic every day, she’s out there ribbon cutting. The governor has only been governor for four months, but she has been crisscrossing the state on a nearly daily basis."

Governor Kathy Hochul has 36% support among Democrats polled by Siena College, Letitia James 18%, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams 10%, and Congressman Tom Suozzi and Mayor Bill de Blasio are tied at 6%.

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Mayor de Blasio has yet to officially announce he is running, but he did file paperwork in order to launch an exploratory committee.

"In the last poll Andrew Cuomo, who was not included in this poll, got 17%," Greenberg said. "So Cuomo’s vote I think was pretty much divided up among all the candidates."

Voters also said in the poll that their top two priorities for the governor and the legislature next year are fighting crime and creating economic opportunity, reinforcing the belief that bail reform will be a main focus in the governor’s race.

Hochul says she would be open to making changes to the law but would prefer to leave it up to the legislature. While de Blasio and Congressman Suozzi have made it clear they want the legislature to revisit the issue.

Williams, on the other hand has pushed back against claims that bail reform is responsible for the rise in crime seen across New York City.

Tish James, when asked last week about her stance on the law, left it more open-ended.

"We should not be cherry-picking data," James said. "We need to dispassionately look at bail reform."

Managing the pandemic was a third priority for voters, but a top priority among downstate suburban voters.

James and Williams both strongly support a statewide mask mandate and de Blasio announced a sweeping vaccine mandate for private companies in New York City.

Meanwhile, Hochul has favored allowing localities to implement their own policies.

"I support the local government leaders to execute policies to fight COVID," Hochul said. "However will be most helpful to deal with this pandemic within their own jurisdictions."

Despite the early lead for Hochul, there are still over six months left before what is becoming a very crowded Democratic primary in June.

Pollsters expect to have a better idea on where candidates stand in the race once candidates turn in their campaign filing numbers in mid-January.