Members of the New York State Democratic Committee on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a no confidence resolution in the leadership of Chairman Jay Jacobs following a string of party losses in this state and across the country earlier this month.
The result isn't just a victory for Jacobs, but also Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has stuck by the chairman as progressive advocates and elected officials have called for his ouster.
But the vote was also an early test for the party overall in New York, which holds all levels of statewide power in Albany, both U.S. Senate seats and the majority of House districts, entering what's expected to be a difficult political environment for Democrats in 2022.
"If we're going to have a future that's going to be successful, we're going to have to respect each other," Jacobs said in a virtual meeting with Democrats after the no-confidence vote was defeated 144 to 25. "And we're going to have to allow for open and civil discourse and disagreement."
Democrats are sensitive to any whiff of being in any state of disarray, viewing their large and diverse tent a strength, not a weakness. But with the party basically holding a hegemony in New York, the fissures, ideological and geographic, can become more apparent.
Hochul is facing what could be an historically large primary this June as she seeks a full term after she replaced Andrew Cuomo in the governor's office in August. On Tuesday, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams launched his bid for governor, joining the field that includes fellow Brooklynite Letitia James, the attorney general.
Waiting in the wings are New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Tom Suozzi, who have both indicated they want to run for governor as well.
Hochul, the first Buffalo resident to serve in the governor's office since the 19th century, sought on Tuesday to warn against division. It was an implicit endorsement of Jacobs, who has publicly endorsed her campaign for a full term.
"I've been around this business long enough to see what happens when we sniping each other," Hochul said. "We attack each other spend millions of dollars against each other, and all of a sudden Republicans are sitting there laughing."
The last governor to take over mid term was in 2008, when David Paterson succeeded Eliot Spitzer. Paterson wrestled with a budget crunch amid the onset of a recession as well as with a dysfunctional state Legislature that took advantage of the power vacuum created by Spitzer's departure.
Cuomo held virtually unquestioned power for a decade in Albany, largely by intimidating Republicans and Democrats alike to not cross him. Hochul has sought to emphasize she won't lead by fear even as the race for governor is already leading to Democrats in the Legislature to take sides.
Progressives inside the Democratic Committee brought the no confidence vote up after a tough Election Day for the party, which suffered losses in suburban Nassau County. Jacobs did not endear himself to supporters of Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton, whose candidacy had drawn the interest of national figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, after he made a clumsy analogy to David Duke when explaining to Spectrum News 1 why he wasn't endorsing in the race.
Jacobs, the chairman of the Nassau County Democrats, had been selected Cuomo to lead the party, but in August had called on him privately and publicly to resign following the report detailing allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
But progressives were also upset the party statewide did little to counter a well-funded campaign by Republicans and the Conservative Party opposing constitutional amendments put before voters meant to expand access to absentee balloting and waive a 10-day voter registration requirement.
"I simply didn't see a fight," said Nobles Crawford, one of the party members who backed the resolution opposing Jacobs' leadership. "There was no fight to use the party's bully pulpit to counteract the Republicans' propaganda."
He added, "This is not a message of division. It's a message of accountability."
Democrats in New York will be a focal point of the national fight to retain control of the House of Representatives as the redistricting process plays itself out in the coming months. Democrats could shape a map that takes advantage of their vast enrollment edge over Republicans, though there are limits to what can be done to boost the party's chances.
Supporters of Jacobs, meanwhile, noted the environment for Democrats was always going to get tougher.
"We fight real live Republicans every single year and we work really hard to do that," said Erie County Chairman Jeremy Zellner. "Anyone who thought this year was going to be real easy was just not paying attention and is just not up to the job."