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Facing primary challenge, Hochul rejects idea of run against Collins

Weekend efforts to coax Democrat Nathan D. McMurray out of his congressional race in favor of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul have apparently failed.

Two sources close to the situation said associates of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo placed a flurry of phone calls on Sunday exploring the switch, but McMurray said Monday he is staying in the race against Republican incumbent Chris Collins in the 27th Congressional District.

“There’s truth to the fact that some people from outside the area were trying to insert themselves into the discussion here,” he said, “but the reality is we’re not going anywhere.”

The sources said the calls followed Saturday’s vote by the Working Families Party state committee to endorse Cynthia Nixon against Cuomo for governor and New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams over Hochul for lieutenant governor. They indicated those making calls over the weekend  included Sam Hoyt, the former assemblyman and state economic development official who is now an Albany lobbyist. Hoyt, who resigned his state post last fall amid allegations of sexual harassment (that he denies), said he called only to suggest that McMurray consider running for the State Senate against Republican incumbent Christopher L. Jacobs this year instead of taking on Collins.

"I did speak to Nate McMurray but under no circumstances was it related to Kathy Hochul and lieutenant governor," Hoyt said late Monday. "Nate and I have been friends for a very long time and I was not uncomfortable taking his temperature on the Senate race."

Nixon and Williams are also running against Cuomo and Hochul in the September Democratic primary, in which the offices of governor and lieutenant governor are contested separately.

That means if Hochul were to lose the primary to Williams, who hails from vote-rich Brooklyn, Cuomo could be saddled with a running mate he did not support. It would also mean that Williams could tally separate votes for lieutenant governor in November as the Working Families candidate for lieutenant governor.

But any switch in congressional candidates would have had to take place by Monday's deadline to decline party nominations for Congress, and McMurray emphasized he will remain in the race.

McMurray raises less for Congress than Dems who dropped out

"So I think that some people think, even though they weren't out there in the rain getting signatures, they weren't putting 15,000 miles on their car, they may be saying: 'Well listen, Nate's a newbie and Nate's not from our inner circle. Let's maybe think about this,' " he said. "But I'll tell you right now: The local party leadership, me, and everyone involved in my campaign and my supporters are in it till the end."

Hochul’s office issued a statement Monday afternoon indicating the lieutenant governor is not running for Congress against Collins and expects to be Cuomo’s running mate this year. Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner said he was aware of “rumblings” about the ticket’s second spot over the last two days but had heard nothing about efforts to replace Hochul.

“I would hope Kathy will be supported for lieutenant governor,” he said. “She is an incredible fighter for our community.”

In January, Hochul called such speculation about her ouster from the ticket “political fodder of the chattering class,” adding that “my choice” is to run again with Cuomo.

But the two other sources said people close to Cuomo were looking to provide a soft landing for Hochul after the Working Families decision on Saturday introduced a host of political complications into the statewide race. One source said McMurray was offered a chance to run against Jacobs, for whom the Democrats have yet to find an opponent.

But that move would carry local implications since Jacobs is part of the family that controls Delaware North Cos., for whom McMurray works as a lawyer. In addition, William J. Hochul serves as general counsel for the firm. He is the former U.S. attorney for Western New York who is also married to the lieutenant governor.

McMurray, the Grand Island supervisor, is waging an uphill campaign against the well-funded Collins in New York State’s most Republican congressional district. He emerged as the candidate after higher profile possibilities such as Hochul (who lost to Collins in 2012) declined to enter the contest.

McMurray then cleared the field of three other declared Democratic candidates to emerge as the apparent challenger to Collins.

Asked if his campaign finance figures released Sunday – which show McMurray raising far less money than two Democratic candidates who left the race – might have influenced whoever asked him to leave the race, McMurray said: "No one knew my campaign financing data."

The Cuomo campaign did not return a request for comment.

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