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In first debate, Hochul defends against her two Democratic primary opponents

Election 2022 NY Governor Debate
Bebeto Matthews
New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, left, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, center, and Congressman Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., prepare to face off during New York's governor primary debate at the studios of WCBS2-TV, Tuesday, June 7, 2022, in New York.

Governor Kathy Hochul defended her record against her two primary opponents in a debate held on WCBS-TV and CBS Newsradio 880 Tuesday night, where topics ranged from abortion rights to cryptocurrency mining.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who is running to the left of Hochul, and Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi, a moderate democrat to the right of the governor, ganged up to attack Hochul on rising crime rates and a deal she struck to keep the Buffalo Bills playing in Western New York.

Both brought up Hochul’s A rating from the NRA a decade ago when she was in Congress.

“10 years ago, I wrote my first report on how to deal with gun violence while the governor was touting her A rating from the NRA,” Williams said. “I wish we’d had her support so that during that decade of death we could have gotten farther than where we are today.”

Hochul has said her views on gun control have evolved. She signed 10 gun safety measures into law on Monday, including one raising the legal age for buying a semi-automatic rifle to 21.

“We got so much done that had been hampered and unfulfilled for a decade,” Hochul said, “to protect New Yorkers, whether it is from gun violence in grocery stores or on the streets of Brooklyn or the Bronx or Harlem.”

Suozzi, who said he has an F rating from the NRA, criticized Hochul for supporting the state’s bail reform laws, which the governor and legislature revised in April to make more crimes bail eligible. Suozzi said he wants to allow judges to apply a dangerousness standard when deciding whether or not to hold defendants pre-trial.

Suozzi also attacked Hochul’s deal to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York, saying she authorized over $1 billion in taxpayer funds to subsidize the NFL team.

“That’s the biggest taxpayer giveaway in the history of the NFL,” Suozzi said. “And even worse, it was announced four days before the budget was due.”

Williams also criticized the plan for the Bills' stadium, which will be built in the suburbs, as not doing enough for people in Black and brown communities.

Both raised questions about a potential conflict of interest between Hochul and her husband, William Hochul, who is the general counsel at the hospitality company Delaware North. It runs the concession stands at the current Bills stadium.

Hochul said the new stadium’s revenues will more than pay for the state and local government subsidies. And she said she and her husband, who was the U.S. Attorney for Western New York during President Barack Obama’s tenure, keep their business and political interests separate.

“We’ve had to always have a separation between our responsibilities,” Hochul said. “I’m proud of his work. His ethics are second to none, as are mine.”

There were some areas of agreement. All believe that a pregnant person’s right to choose abortion needs to be strongly protected, in an era when the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade. And, in a lightning round of questions, all three said they believe in some form of ghosts and the existence of the spirit world.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.