Some Democrats Wonder: Where Is Hochul’s Ground Game?

Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign, with an eye toward November. We’ll also check on what to know now that the global outbreak of monkeypox has reached New York.

Gov. Kathy Hochul appears to be sailing toward a comfortable win in the Democratic primary for governor next week.

With an apparently commanding lead, she has followed a Rose Garden strategy against her opponents, Representative Thomas Suozzi of Long Island and Jumaane Williams, the New York City public advocate. She has spent millions of dollars on television commercials and digital ads. But she has mostly stayed above the political fray, avoiding in-person campaign appearances. In fact, most of her appearances this spring — in Black churches or in parades, for instance — have counted as official duties. Her campaign has listed only five events in the last month.

Her approach has been so low-key that some elected officials, party leaders and Democratic strategists are worried. They fear that Hochul, a relatively untested candidate from western New York who was not well known downstate before she replaced Andrew Cuomo as governor 10 months ago, has not built the kind of political ground game that would generate enthusiasm among Black and Latino voters and union members in New York City.

That, they say, could have implications for the turnout in November — and low turnout, in turn, could endanger Democrats down the ballot. Democratic strategies say that it could hurt Antonio Delgado, the Hudson Valley congressman she chose to be lieutenant governor. He is in a tight contest against Ana Maria Archila and Diana Reyna.

Charles Rangel, the longtime dean of Harlem politics, sounded the alarm in a meeting with two of Hochul’s top political aides last month. He asked: Where’s the campaign? No posters had gone up, and no surrogates were working subway stations to get out the vote for the primary.

Three major union leaders who are backing Hochul told my colleagues Nicholas Fandos and Jeffery C. Mays that they were perplexed about the relative quiet from Hochul’s team. They said they had not been asked for help to canvass or do other errands her predecessors had routinely sought. One of them said flatly that he had seen no evidence of campaign activity.

Tyquana Henderson-Rivers, a senior Hochul adviser, acknowledged that the campaign was taking a “slower build” approach than officials like Rangel might be used to.

But it has its reasons, she said, including the pandemic — which has shifted some in-person campaign outreach onto harder-to-see digital platforms — and the calendar. This is the first year in which New York’s primary for governor is being held in June rather than September. The change will lengthen the time between the primary and the general election. Hochul’s team is consciously conserving resources now to prepare for campaigning in late summer and fall.

“We hear you,” Henderson-Rivers said, when asked about fellow Democrats’ concerns, before adding that Hochul’s campaign operation would get in gear. “We’re revving,” she said.


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Monkeypox, a virus long endemic in parts of Africa, is spreading globally. Some 23 cases have been reported in New York, but health officials believe there are more undetected cases. Most reported cases are among gay or bisexual men or men who have had sex with other men. The city has said that most of the cases so far have been mild, but even mild cases can cause a painful rash that can take two to four weeks to resolve. I asked Sharon Otterman, who covers health care for Metro, to explain.

How is it spread? Can it spread through respiratory droplets the way the coronavirus can?

The virus is spread primarily by skin-to-skin contact with the sores of someone who is infected.

It appears to have been spreading mostly through intimate and sexual contact, though it is not officially considered a sexually transmitted disease. Scientists say it can also spread by contact with sharing objects with an infected person, such as towels or sex toys.

It can spread by respiratory droplets, which are created when we speak, sneeze or cough, but that would probably take prolonged close contact. There is also some evidence that it may be able to spread in a limited way via tiny aerosols, like Covid-19, meaning that it may be airborne.

But the monkeypox virus in general is much less contagious than Covid-19. It is not thought that you can get it just by breathing the air in a room where an infected person is sitting, for example. So, overall, the risk for most people is low at this point.

You write that testing remains rare, which sounds troublingly like the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. How are monkeypox tests handled?

Only about 70 public labs in the country can conduct the test for orthopox, the family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs. To get a test, a health care provider has to call the local health department and have a conversation about whether a test is warranted, and right now, health officials in New York will not test everyone who just comes in with a rash.

But if an orthopox virus test is positive, the sample then goes to the C.D.C. in Atlanta for final confirmation of monkeypox. The whole process can take several days. To speed the response, any orthopox test that’s positive is presumed to be monkeypox even before the confirmation test.

If you text positive for monkeypox, what’s the treatment?

Most patients get better on their own, with some supportive care for symptoms, such as to relieve the itching from the pox.

It’s important that people with monkeypox isolate as much as possible to avoid spreading the virus until their sores crust over, the scabs fall off and new skin forms.

For more serious cases, there are several antiviral drugs that local health departments have access to. For close contacts of someone who tests positive, an F.D.A. approved monkeypox vaccine may be offered.

What’s the risk to the L.G.B.T.Q. community? Will monkeypox be spread at events like the gay Pride march on June 26?

Large outdoor events where people are not in close skin-to-skin contact are not considered places where people can catch monkeypox. There’s no reason not to attend an event like a parade. In fact, the risk of getting Covid-19 at many events is probably higher.

Again, close skin-to-skin contact is the main way monkeypox spreads, so health officials say it’s important that people check themselves carefully for sores before they go into such venues before they go into crowded places like saunas or bathhouses — and stay home if they notice anything or feel at all unwell.

What about the C.D.C. response? What steps has the C.D.C. taken to control this outbreak, and are they sufficient?

So far, the C.D.C. has stuck with a centralized testing model that was designed to work with a limited outbreak. There are concerns among advocates that this will not catch many cases that are probably cropping up now around the country. Advocates say that the C.D.C. should empower commercial laboratories to do their own testing and develop rapid tests.

Monkeypox has never spread from person to person at this scale or outside of Africa before, so this is a new challenge for the C.D.C. and global health agencies.