New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (L) and the Vice President of Lt. Gov. Candidate Kathy Hochul participate in a campaign freeze at the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council the day before the Democratic primary in Midtown, New York on September 8, 2014.
Adrees Latif | Reuters
A group of New York’s most influential political donors in business encourage Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, running for governor, while Andrew Cuomo grapples with various investigations after an official report found he sexually molested several women.
Hochul’s talks with financiers over the past few weeks have focused in part on her political future, including a possible candidacy for governor and a possible assumption of governor if Cuomo resigns or is ousted, people familiar with the matter said .
These interviews took place before and after Attorney General Letitia James released his report last week, which listed cases of alleged sexual harassment by Cuomo against at least 11 women. The governor has denied wrongdoing.
A person close to Hochul said many of these recent conversations were initiated by supporters. This person declined to be called to speak freely.
“Everyone turned to her,” said the person. “You offer advice and she listens.” That person said Hochul had heard from state lawmakers, business leaders and other elected officials. This person also stressed that it is the lieutenant governor’s job to be ready to take over for the governor when a transition occurs.
Hochul’s conversations with donors and business leaders mark another change in happiness for Cuomo, who has garnered support – and millions of dollars – from senior executives during his three terms as New York governor.
Cuomo hasn’t ruled out running again in 2022. His campaign war chest was just over $ 18 million by the end of the first half of the year. Cuomo and Hochul are both Democrats.
State campaign funding records show that Hochul’s lieutenant governor’s campaign account has approximately $ 1.7 million available. Should she become governor before Election Day 2022, she would likely be re-elected for a full term next year.
President Joe Biden and other Democratic Party leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have called on Cuomo to step down. Members of the New York State Assembly expect the review of the evidence in their impeachment process to be completed in a matter of weeks. Hochul has described the governor’s alleged conduct as “repulsive and illegal” and said it was up to the meeting to determine the next steps.
Meanwhile, many donors who have been with Cuomo’s camp for years have not come to his defense since the report was released last week.
Weeks before James’ report was released, John Yurtchuk, chairman and owner of Buffalo-based tech company Calspan Corp., received a call from Hochul, he said in an interview Monday.
Yurtchuk said he tried to convince Hochul to run for governor.
“I just said, ‘You would be a great governor. I’m just letting you know’ so she knows where her supporters might be. I would stand up for her,” he said.
Yortchuk said, Hochul “kind of said she heard this. She heard this from other people who support her.” He gave Hochul’s campaign for the lieutenant governor in July $ 5,000.
Last week, a media manager and Democratic mega-donor who refused to be named to speak freely said he had heard from Hochul and assumed the conversation meant she was making a connection should she become governor. Those close to her have signaled to this executive that they are ready to raise campaign funds for the governor’s race if she should take over Cuomo.
Jeffrey Gural, a property manager who previously contributed to Cuomo’s re-election campaigns, says he spoke to Hochul before James released the report’s findings. Gural publicly tuned Cuomo late last month and gave Hochul’s re-election campaign $ 5,000 in early July.
“I think she’d do a great job replacing Andrew. I’ve known her since she ran for Congress and obviously she’ll have a chance to prove herself once Andrew finds out he’s done,” Gural said in an email on Monday. “Before the report, she never mentioned that she was responsible for anything other than Lt. Gov is running, but I told her I plan to attack Andrew publicly in the hopes that my allegations stand and she should be ready. She laughed and I attacked him. “
Gural said Hochul only laughed because she didn’t take his threat to publicly blow up Cuomo seriously.
Another long-standing Cuomo donor, who Hochul has also known for years, is already preparing to take calls from her if Cuomo leaves office before next year’s elections.
“With his departure now (if it happens), Kathy will be in a strong position as she has several months to build rule over the party before the election shows up,” this donor wrote in an email to CNBC. “If he stayed but didn’t run for re-election, their chances would be severely limited.”
This person declined to be identified to avoid retaliation from the governor.