SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The beaches here may seem a little crowded for at least three Democratic attendees of the annual SOMOS political retreat.
Three potential 2022 candidates for governor are vying for the attention and support of New York’s powerful political and union class that’s migrated to sunny Puerto Rico for the week.
The race is all-but-officially on between Gov. Kathy Hochul and state Attorney General Leitita James, along with other potential hopefuls: outgoing NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and city Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who is not in attendance.
“You’re rolling up as many elected officials as possible, key lobbyists and fundraisers, union leaders and the press,” said one Democratic insider who made the trip to sunny San Juan for the week, describing the likely targets of the 2022 hopefuls.
“Each is coming with a list of elected officials they want to secure backing from when they’re here — especially Bronx and Brooklyn Democratic Party leaders, assembly members, state senators and councilmembers.”
“The dirty little secret at SOMOS is if you throw a toothpick you’re going to hit a lobbyist — most of whom bring their clients,” the source added, noting SOMOS sponsors include powerhouses Montefiore Medical Center, Uber, the New York Building Congress, HealthFirst, Fresh Direct, Doordash and the Real Estate Board of New York
The labor industry demonstrates a massive presence as well, as building workers union 32BJ’s Kyle Bragg made the trip as well as DC37’s head Henry Garrido, and representatives from the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, 1199SEIU, UFA and UFT.
“Finally you folks — the press. They’ve got to convince you they’re legit. They gotta spin. They got to make sure when they come home you folks are saying nice things about them,” the Democrat added.
“Given the calendar every year — it’s an incredible political networking opportunity…but the big drama this year is Tish and Kathy,” Comptroller Tom DiNapoli — who hosted the opening reception Wednesday — told The Post.
Hochul has been fundraising furiously ahead of what’s expected to be a fierce June — hitting up big lobbying firms like Bolton St-John’s and declaring she wants to raise at least $25 million by next year.
A Buffalo native, insiders say Hochul must make inroads downstate especially in vote-heavy Brooklyn and Queens.
It was in those areas that New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams, a Brooklynite, heavily courted middle and working class voters during his own 2021 primary bid.
Hochul already tapped Harlem Democrat Brian Benjamin to be her lieutenant governor — a key pick as she tries to expand her base.
But James — another native of Brooklyn — is known for her ties to labor leaders and support among Black and brown voters, especially in her home borough.
“I think the general view is: it’s coming down pretty early to a two-woman race. There’s no question the Latino vote is a very important constituency in the Democratic Party,” said DiNapoli.
De Blasio arrive Thursday afternoon but the first Democratic source noted he has a lot of ground to cover.
“Bill de Blasio has to convince people he is not a late night punchline anymore. Nobody takes him seriously. Nobody thinks that he could be governor much less win a city council race again in Brooklyn,” the source said.
Williams, however, won’t be attending the conference due to a chronic fear of flying.
“Even though Jumaane doesn’t fly on airplanes, the race for governor has begun in San Juan with his absence,” said a source close to James.
Sources have acknowledged that entries from de Blasio and Williams could take away votes from James in the five boroughs.
Meanwhile, James arrived Wednesday afternoon and was one of the only pols to speak at the welcome reception.
A second Democratic source who watched the speech remarked, “She is a presence. She gets up there and is really charismatic.”
“Attorney General James isn’t new to Somos or Puerto Rico and has been racking up endorsements since she got in the race for governor less than a week ago. She’s already gotten an overwhelmingly positive reception and would look for that to continue this week,” said a third Democratic source.
James then attended an 11 am event with the Hispanic Federation — a nonprofit Latino advocacy group with deep ties to Bronx politics — where she discussed a US Supreme Court case related to delivering Puerto Ricans access to social safety net programs.
Although she protested that she wants to “keep a focus on what is happening here and not about the politics at all,” it could not be ignored that the Federation was founded by her consultant Luis Miranda, of Hamilton Strategies.
Miranda is also the founder of the powerful lobbying firm MirRam group, which also reps the Hispanic Federation in Albany.
Frank Miranda — who has no relation to Luis — said he’s also planning on hosting an event with Hochul Friday.
Hamilton also represents Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez — who is considering his own bid for state attorney general.
But one legislator griped to The Post that Miranda is very clearly “leveraging his relationship with the Federation to aid Tish.”
Another Latino pol with ties to Hochul said the federation will stay “in the middle of the pen” and not take sides as it’s a nonprofit and not allowed to make political endorsements.
“The weakness that might exist for Hochul is that the Latino community is overwhelmingly from New York City, and they’ve been working with Tish longer than with Hochul — and that upstate downstate divide may be a problem for her,” said John Desio, a longtime Democratic political insider.
“They both have very similar strengths — in that they have longtime elected officials and have been doing things with the latino community throughout their career. Now the governorship is up for grabs.”
Hochul for her part began Thursday with a 9 am zoom interview hosted by SOMOS sponsor City & State.
Shortly after, she announced she’s nominating Harlem Democratic Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez to be her Secretary of State — a nod to the Hispanic community.
Both James and Hochul are on track to speak to donors and lawmakers at 6PM at an event hosted by Eleanor’s Legacy, a prominent women’s group.
Also at play is the race for the next City Council Speaker — as insiders say there’s strong desire to elect a Hispanic to the position.
Hopefuls so far include Councilmembers Adrienne Adams, Carlina Rivera, Francisco Moya, Diana Ayala, Gale Brewer, Justin Brannan — who is still waiting to find out if he has been reelected — and Keith Powers.