NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) — In just a few days, New Yorkers will head to the polls in the state’s primary election to nominate a Republican and Democratic candidate for governor.

The three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination are appearing on PIX11 News’ Democratic Forum Saturday evening to show voters where they stand on key issues, including gun control, crime, and the economy. PIX11 aired a forum with Republican candidates for governor on Tuesday.

It’s an interesting race, with incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul running for her first full term. She took over the executive office in the wake of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation in 2021. 

Exclusive PIX11 polling, conducted in partnership with The Hill and Emerson College Polling, shows Hochul has a comfortable lead over her challengers with 57% of votes.

Challengers U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams trail at a distant second and third place, with 17% and 6% of voter support, respectively. 

However, 20% of voters remained undecided in the weeks leading up to primary day, according to PIX11 polling. When undecided voters were asked who they were leaning toward, Hochul’s lead grew to 63% of the votes. Suozzi got 25% and Williams got 11%.

NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams

Williams has quite a bit of ground to make up with voters. Here’s where he stands on the top issues heading into the primary:

If elected governor, Williams plans to combat gun violence by focusing on why there is a demand for guns and provide more vouchers for public housing to address New York City’s high rents.

Williams said it’s hard for the state to focus on the supply-side of gun safety. He had asked for $1 billion to be put in the state’s budget to deal with gun violence but said that money eventually went to a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills.

As far as law-abiding gun owners in New York, the candidate said the recent slew of gun safety bills addresses mass shootings, not the average person’s right to protect themself.

Williams also has big ideas on how to battle some of the state’s other challenges, including inflation and Mayor Eric Adams’ subway safety plan that allows mental health professionals to respond to some of the incidents. He said adding mental health professionals is a good start but he wants to remove police from the subway patrols unless the trained professionals ask for them.

“Everyone now agrees that law enforcement should not be responding to people who need mental health services, so we need to remove police,” Williams said.

Williams, who is trailing his competitors in a recent PIX11 poll, said he was behind in the polls in all his other political campaigns, but the voters who supported him turned out on Election Day.

“Most of our voters don’t show up on these polls,” he said. 

Rep. Tom Suozzi

Suozzi remains in the middle of the pack but recent polling shows he trails Hochul by a significant margin. However, he believes he can make up that deficit in the final days of the primary race. Here’s where he stands on the key issues heading into the primary:

Not unlike Mayor Adams, who courted Suozzi as a potential deputy mayor, the Long Island congressman has positioned himself as the moderate alternative to more progressive challengers. That stance includes a stated willingness to get tough on crime.

Suozzi, who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2006, said that he would serve as a “partner” to Adams in Albany to fight crime. He also called for Empire State judges to have greater discretion to weigh the “dangerousness” of alleged criminals when setting bail.

Suozzi also tied safety in the subway system to long-stalled plans to implement congestion pricing in Manhattan. Congestion pricing, which would charge motorists for driving into central Manhattan, could only work if New Yorkers felt safe taking the subway as a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly alternative, Suozzi said. Asked if he felt the plan could finally be put in place during his hypothetical term as governor, Suozzi answered in the affirmative.

With respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, Suozzi said that he supports vaccination, but said that the shots should not be required of students in New York schools — at least for the time being. Suozzi said that the discourse around vaccines has become “much too toxic” and “politicized” to impose further mandates.

Gov. Kathy Hochul

Hochul has served as governor for nearly a year, but she was not elected to the position. She’s hoping to win over voters for her first full term. Here’s where she stands on important issues ahead of the primary:

Hochul took control of a state government as New York was still fighting back against COVID. At the time, state leaders were determined to focus on work after wading through months of sexual harassment allegations against former Gov. Cuomo.

Some of her first major actions after being sworn in dealt with recovery from Ida. Remnants from the hurricane battered New York not long after Hochul’s first day in office. In her first weeks in office, she also picked Brian Benjamin, who later resigned after being arrested, as lieutenant governor.

“We had a lot on our plate, but we did come through,” she said. “We learn from our mistakes.”

Since taking office, Hochul said she’s been “laser-focused” on guns. She’s worked with leaders in neighboring states to stop illegal guns from crossing the border into New York. Hochul said 4,000 guns have been taken off the streets since she took office. 

“The key thing is we continue to have our tough gun laws in New York,” she said. 

New York has implemented a number of new restrictions on guns since Hochul took office. Some Republicans have said those laws are too restrictive; they want more focus on mental health issues as a preventative measure against violence. 

“I disagree with them that the blame is on people’s mental health challenges. Why are we stigmatizing people with mental health challenges? They need help,” Hochul said. “It is a rare case when that can actually be a legitimate reason for someone to take the steps they need to go get a gun.”

She’s also been focused on the economy. Inflation has hit New Yorkers hard at the pump, in grocery stores, and when it comes to paying rent. Hochul said she wants to keep taxes at a level where people and jobs are not driven from New York.

Hochul suspended the gas tax in New York for several months. She said she’s open to extending that suspension.

“We are always open-minded to find ways to lift the burden from struggling families,” she said.

Early voting and primary day

You have one more day to vote early and in-person before primary day. Early voting polling sites will be open on Sunday. The polls will open again on Election Day Tuesday.