By Ted Potrikus
Her beloved Buffalo Bills lost in a weekend heartbreaker, but aside from that, Governor Kathy Hochul has had a pretty good couple of weeks.
She’s able to talk about turning the corner against the winter Omicron surge, with seven-day averages for new hospital admissions, new cases, and cases-per-100,000 declining in every part of the state.
She laid out a blueprint for New York’s upcoming fiscal year, a $216 billion bonanza adorned with property tax rebates, pandemic recovery initiatives, infrastructure improvements, record-setting education aid, and big-spending ideas that aim to keep environmentalists green with joy. It’s a something-for-everybody package with enough in it to elate most of the disparate constituencies that constitute the Empire State
She delivered it with a measure of optimism and grace we’ve not heard in a few years. Her predecessor made everything so stentorian he could make ordering a burger and fries from a drive-thru sound like a full-on death-scene soliloquy.
She rides high in the polls – Siena College’s Research Institute last week showed her with a 46 percent approval rating among likely Democratic voters, 30 points ahead of her nearest potential challenger, Bill de Blasio. Mr. de Blasio, New York City’s now-former mayor, immediately released a friendly video message saying that no, he’s not running for governor. Attorney General Tish James saw the writing on the wall, too, when she abandoned her primary ideas a few weeks earlier.
Oh, and she raised a boatload of money for her 2022 campaign.
Nearly $21.6 million, to be exact, in the five-month period from the day she succeeded Mr. Cuomo last August. Record-setting and pretty darn impressive.
Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi – who’s going to primary Governor Hochul from the party’s right — pushes forward raising roughly one-quarter of the Hochul Haul, a little north of $5 million (boasting $3.3 million of that in six weeks). He’ll need a lot more in a very short period of time to boost his name recognition upstate (where, presumably, he’d garner more votes) and change the minds of the all-important New York City Democratic primary voters who, as we’ve seen, are likely to vote for the farther-left candidates.
Over on the Republican side, the front-runner-in-waiting, Congressman Lee Zeldin, has the most in the bank of any candidate to date, reporting a total of around $5 million in his account.
Like it or not, money and running for office are inexorably entwined and until someone comes up with a cost-free way for politicians to get their messages out to the public, it’ll stay that way. It takes a ton of dough to get out the message, get out the vote, and get around the state. Tally the costs of travel, television and radio ads, social media engagement, almost militaristic on-the-ground get-out-the-vote operations, and campaign staff, and you’re looking at a wallet-busting industry that demands a little north of $20 million to fend off all comers.
I do not subscribe to the knee-jerk admonishment that campaign contributions pay for favorable public policy decisions. Running a political action committee and accepting political donations is tightrope work – a necessary part of the process but one open to hackneyed accusations of abuse at the drop of a press release. Any group that feels wronged by a bill that may have gone through years of public discussion and debate will no doubt blame its perceived loss on “big money politics” and “donors with access.”
That’s not how it works. Sure, there are exceptions to every rule, and in the past couple of decades we’ve seen those who abuse the system in New York trundle off to jail and/or shameful resignation. Most every time, the system corrects itself.
I don’t see Kathy Hochul changing her mind on an issue because somebody gave money to her campaign, and I’ll say it again: don’t underestimate her. She’s no pushover.