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Letitia James. Photo: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York Democratic strategists, operatives and progressives are viewing state Attorney General Letitia James as an appealing primary challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, they tell Axios.

Why it matters: The dynamics of New York politics are complex, especially when your last name is Cuomo. But the governor has been criticized recently for his handling of the coronavirus, and James is no stranger to picking big fights.

Her bombshell report about how the coronavirus rocked New York's nursing homes focused on the issue Cuomo rode to a heightened national profile during the past year. James also has targeted Donald Trump with an investigation into his real estate empire, as well as Facebook, Google and the National Rifle Association.

  • "You need to be less extreme but still to the left — but center enough — to get the party moderates," one Democratic operative who works on local races told Axios.
  • Neither James' nor Cuomo's offices responded to requests for comment.

Between the lines: Several operatives said Democrats can't make the same "mistake" they have in the past, as one put it, and nominate a white, liberal woman. 

  • When Zephyr Teachout and Cynthia Nixon challenged Cuomo in 2014 and 2018, they both got blown out.
  • One New York political operative pointed to Cuomo's favorability ratings as evidence the governor is still loved by New Yorkers.

Background: James is no pushover.

  • And she's a Black woman at a time when the Democratic Party publicly calls that constituency the backbone of the party.
  • “There’s a real sense that people are ready to see the back of Andrew Cuomo,” said Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist who served as special adviser to Cuomo in 2014-15. “The question is: How afraid are they to admit it in public?”
  • Del Percio said of James: “She is fierce. No one’s going to tell her to wait her turn.”

Some New York Democrats previously harbored concerns James was too close to Cuomo, but she's changed minds with her actions.

  • "I’ve been really impressed with her," said Teachout, who also once challenged James for attorney general. She cited James' leadership on antitrust issues and "her powerful and important truth-telling report about nursing homes."

Another person to watch: Jumaane Williams is an activist and local elected official in New York City.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

2 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 2 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."