By Richard Lee
Those lines from the Beatles 1967 film and album “Magical Mystery Tour” are my way of inviting you to join me on a journey through this year’s New York gubernatorial contest — a race that already has had a share of unusual and unpredictable twists and turns.
A year ago, Andrew Cuomo was eyeing a fourth term as governor. Kathy Hochul was lieutenant governor and an unlikely candidate for the state’s top post. All of that changed on Aug. 10 when Cuomo announced his resignation amid a flurry of accusations of sexual harassment, and Hochul became New York’s 57th governor.
Hochul has erased any doubts that she lacks the ability to garner the support, money and endorsements needed to become the Democrat Party’s gubernatorial candidate. She overcame spirited primary challenges from Rep. Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Not even the indictment and resignation of Brian Benjamin, the man she selected for her lieutenant governor, kept her from winning the primary by a large margin.
On the Republican side, Rep. Lee Zeldin emerged as the party’s winning candidate Tuesday, defeating 2014 gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino; Andrew Giuliani, a former special assistant to President Donald Trump, and businessman Tom Wilson. For the most part, the GOP candidates devoted their time and energy to attacks on Hochul, but they did target each other during debates at the end of the primary campaign.
All of this took place against the backdrop of changing congressional district boundaries that had candidates playing a game of musical chairs to determine what district they could — and would — run in. And one candidate, Rep. Chris Jacobs, was unceremoniously dismissed by his own party leaders just a week or so after they all had backed his candidacy.
But for now, let’s focus on the race for governor. It’s Hochul vs. Zeldin, and as the Beatles sang, “The Magical Mystery Tour is waiting to take you away.”
So why follow me? I don’t intend to provide scoops or inside information. What I can offer is informative and entertaining commentary and analysis from a variety of perspectives. As a reporter, I covered gubernatorial campaigns. I later worked on campaigns and served as Deputy Communications Director for two governors.
I also can offer an academic perspective. I hold a Ph.D. in media studies from Rutgers University, and I am an associate professor in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University, where I teach courses on political campaigns and run the Jandoli Institute, a public policy center focused on the intersection of media and democracy.
I can bring an air of levity to the campaign too. Early in my career, I covered rock’n’roll, and much of my research involves the role of entertainment in public policy.
You can read more in my bio to see why my background has prepared me to lead you on a journey through New York’s race for governor.
Or you can just take some advice from another Beatle song, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” in which they sing:
Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors. To read more of Lee’s ‘”On the Road to Albany” columns, follow the Jandoli Institute on Twitter and Facebook.