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Dems Nominate Hochul for NY Governor Race

JULIAN ABRAHAM, HOST: The New York Democratic Party held its 2020 State Convention today at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. It nominated Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Kathy Hochul to be its standard bearers in this June’s primary election. Our reporter, Mark Gilchrist was there. Mark, what was the scene like at the event?

MARK GILCHRIST: I’d call it a “superstar event” if you are a political junkie, with nearly all of the big-name Democrat party officials in attendance. A crowd of hundreds of delegates and members of the press crowded into a huge ballroom to hear speeches from basically every elected official in the state. We heard from Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand

Lt. Governor Brian Williams - and Attorney General Laticia James. There was a rousing keynote speech by Hillary Clinton. And then the delegates did what everyone expected…. They nominated Governor Kathy Hochul to be their candidate for governor, making her the first woman in New York history to be nominated by any major party to the New York governorship.

ABRAHAM: Now at least two other prominent Democrats have said they want to run for governor. What happened to them at the convention?

GILCHRIST: Congressman Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams both started to campaign for governor. They have argued that Governor Hochul is from upstate, Buffalo. And that perhaps the Democrats should nominate someone from closer to New York City.

But there was no indication AT ALL at the convention today that those two were even running against Governor Hochul. The other candidates did not speak to the delegates. They did not appear to have any clear supporters in attendance. They did not even have any posters. It was almost as though they had been erased from the event by the party leaders. The only posters, buttons, and tee-shirts I saw were from the Kathy Hochul for Governor campaign. In a way, this seemed to be a bit of a coronation event for Governor Hochul. There really was almost no competitive buzz or drama at all.

ABRAHAM: Now explain to me what happens next. There is a primary in June so voters DO get their say. What is the point of the convention if there’s going to be a primary?

GILCHRIST: Yes, it’s weird. The party delegates and officials choose its nominees for different offices before the primary election takes place, which is the opposite of most states. The Democratic Party’s official choices automatically go on the June primary ballot. The other Democrat candidates not chosen by the party can still run, but they have to accumulate a large number of signatures to get on the ballot, which is expensive and time-consuming.

ABRAHAM: Does this mean that Governor Hochul does NOT have the nomination in the bag?

Yes, if the voters in June decide to select one of the other candidates - if they are able to get on the ballot - then THAT candidate would end up running as the Democratic candidate in the November election. This whole system is meant to give the most loyal party faithful a say first, but looks like a remnant of the old days when party leaders chose the candidate, and there were no primaries.

Host: But today was a good day for Governor Huchul?

GILCHRIST: Oh, yes, it was. The Governor has been able to quickly get nearly all of the party’s establishment behind her. She has already raised more than $20 million dollars in just a few months. This gives her a formidable War Chest to go into the primary and general elections. The betting money is on her.

ABRAHAM: Mark Gilchrist is a reporter for Columbia Radio News. Mark, thanks for talking with us.

GILCHRIST: You’re welcome.

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