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New York Democrats start debating whether or not to run for governor when Cuomo opposes calls to step down

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York State, speaks at a press conference in New York City on September 8, 2020.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Several New York Democrats are considering running for governor as Andrew Cuomo comes under increasing pressure within his own party to resign after several women accused him of sexual harassment.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., Have partnered with supporters and party leaders, among others, to discuss whether they might run for governor in 2022, according to people familiar with the matter.

Their representatives did not deny that such discussions were taking place.

A spokesman for Cuomo did not return a request for comment.

Meanwhile, several party donors are beginning to view New York Lieutenant Kathy Hochul as a potentially strong candidate for a re-election bid in 2022 if Cuomo is evicted from Albany, according to others who have been briefed on the matter.

These talks come when Cuomo's political future is in balance. Nearly 60 New York State Democratic lawmakers have called for Cuomo's resignation after a governor's aide accused him of groping her. This was the latest in a series of sexual harassment allegations.

A long-running Democratic fundraiser told CNBC that he and members of his extensive network plan to reach out to Hochul next week to "just touch the grassroots" following the recent Cuomo allegations. This type of donor-politician conversation is sometimes used to build a relationship before the financiers step in to support them.

Individuals aware of these discussions declined to be named in order to speak freely about ongoing deliberations. Nobody started a campaign. Cuomo previously announced that he would run for a fourth term next year.

While New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has not publicly ruled out running for governor, spokesman Bill Neidhardt told CNBC that he had not privately discussed the possible move with allies. De Blasio, a longtime opponent of Cuomo, has also called for the governor to resign.

"He didn't discuss the idea. A lot of reporters seem to enjoy talking about it, and I think that's great," said Neidhardt.

However, mayor's supporters told CNBC that de Blasio had discussed the idea of ​​running.

When asked if de Blasio spoke about a run for the governor for the first time during a press conference, Neidhardt replied, "He said he was focusing on the pandemic and the economic boom ahead of him. Very important things."

Cuomo has denied the latest allegation and apologized for his past behavior, despite pausing close to resigning. New York Attorney General Letitia James organized an independent investigation into claims against Cuomo.

There is a separate federal investigation into Cuomo's handling of data related to deaths in nursing homes after Covid-19.

Numerous Cuomo financiers have decided to halt and reassess their support for the governor in light of the allegations.

Assembly spokesman Carl Heastie, another Democrat, said in a statement Thursday, "Given the allegations about the governor over the past few weeks, I will meet with members today at a conference on possible ways forward."

In particular, an adviser to Suozzi, the congressman, did not deny that the New York congressman had talks about a possible run for the governor in a statement to CNBC.

"Congressman Suozzi has confidence in the AG and DOJ investigations into the grave and worrying allegations against Governor Cuomo," said Kim Devlin, a senior advisor to Suozzi.

"The congressman is leading the fight for state and local aid and has worked with his colleagues in New York and other officials to ensure they were included in the US rescue plan," said Devlin. "He remains focused on building support for the lifting of the unfair cap on the SALT withdrawal that has decimated homeowners in his district and across New York."

A DiNapoli representative also did not deny that the New York State Comptroller was privately considering a run for the governor.

"He is focused on his work and has no further comment," DiNapoli spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman told CNBC.

The recent move by members of his own party against Cuomo comes as public polls suggest that support for jobs has declined and many voters believe he shouldn't run for a second term.

A Quinnipiac poll conducted prior to the last reported allegation shows that Cuomo has a split job approval rating of 45% to 46%. According to Quinnipiac, its new approvals mean a nearly 30 point drop in Cuomo's job approval compared to almost a year ago. Democrats are 65% to 27% in favor, while Republicans are 82% to 13% against.

About 59% of respondents believe Cuomo shouldn't run for re-election in 2022. About 74% of Democrats say he shouldn't step down.

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