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He Calls the Photographs for New York’s Governor. He Lives in Colorado.

With the Democratic nomination all however assured final spring, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York and her marketing campaign workforce started to plot a pre-emptive tv advert to guard in opposition to Republican assaults already effervescent up round rising crime.

Advert makers reduce a 30-second spot, highlighting Ms. Hochul’s plan to safe metropolis streets and subway trains. She informed her marketing campaign supervisor she was desirous to see it on air, and he or she previewed it for donors at a non-public Park Avenue screening.

However the advert by no means ran. After rounds of debate, one voice rose above the others. “Let’s give attention to abortion,” Adam C. Sullivan wrote in a word to senior strategists reviewed by The New York Instances. Crime might wait.

A 12 months later, the choice has come to be seen by many in Ms. Hochul’s orbit as a harmful miscalculation that helped her Republican challenger come dangerously shut to upsetting her, and contributed to Democrats shedding the Home majority. It’s also a testomony to the unseen affect of Mr. Sullivan, an obscure operative who has leveraged a detailed bond with Ms. Hochul to change into maybe essentially the most highly effective political drive in New York who virtually nobody is aware of.

Mr. Sullivan, 42, has no formal job title or social media presence. He operates a small consulting agency from his residence in a Colorado mining city, delivering technique directives on points like public security removed from the streets of New York Metropolis, the place crime has unsettled some residents. And his beneficiant compensation — estimated to be within the a whole lot of hundreds of {dollars} — is usually hidden from marketing campaign data.

But 18 months into Ms. Hochul’s tenure, Mr. Sullivan’s fingerprints will be discovered throughout New York, in response to greater than two dozen individuals who have labored with him intently.

He helped Ms. Hochul construct her administration, advising her on early key hires; formed two multibillion-dollar state budgets; and ran a 2022 election marketing campaign that was criticized by Democrats for its lack of vitality. Most not too long ago, he helped the governor navigate the failed effort to muscle Justice Hector D. LaSalle onto the state’s highest court docket.

Now, because the de facto head of Ms. Hochul’s political operation, Mr. Sullivan has been deputized to revive New York’s embattled state Democratic Celebration. And the result might have important implications for Democrats’ probabilities to retake the Home.

Even by the Zoom period’s requirements, the breadth of Mr. Sullivan’s affect from afar is uncommon, puzzling a lot of New York’s clubby political institution and exasperating many on Ms. Hochul’s personal workforce.

Most governors have a trusted, all-around enforcer who fastidiously guards their political standing. Ms. Hochul met hers in 2011, when Mr. Sullivan helped her win a particular Home election nobody else thought she might. However hardly ever do individuals in his place cellphone in from 1,700 miles away or command so few relationships with key stakeholders.

“Managing New York politics from Colorado is like managing the battle in Ukraine from New York,” Charlie King, a veteran Democratic strategist, mentioned. “You could be a superb tactician, however issues on the bottom transfer extremely quick and you might simply not be shut sufficient to the motion.

Lots of those that work instantly for Ms. Hochul’s political workforce and administration have taken an excellent harsher view. The Instances spoke to greater than 15 individuals in any respect ranges who mentioned Mr. Sullivan is named a divisive presence. They associated anecdotes of him disparaging subordinates, particularly youthful girls; marginalizing those that disagreed with him; telling youthful staff that the governor didn’t know their names; and incessantly shifting blame when issues have gone incorrect.

The aides and advisers insisted on anonymity for worry of retaliation. However they mentioned Mr. Sullivan had contributed to Ms. Hochul’s diminished political standing whereas escaping public scrutiny.

In a written assertion, Mr. Sullivan didn’t instantly dispute these characterizations, however famous the depth of the marketing campaign. “I’ve all the time tried to deal with everybody with respect and remorse that there are individuals who really feel I didn’t meet that bar,” he mentioned.

Julie Wooden, a spokeswoman for the governor, didn’t deal with the office considerations in her personal assertion about Mr. Sullivan, saying that Ms. Hochul “values his concepts and steerage.”

“In the end what drives her decision-making is what’s greatest for New Yorkers,” Ms. Wooden mentioned.

There are additionally questions on how and by whom Mr. Sullivan, who will not be a state worker, is being paid.

Since 2021, the governor’s marketing campaign has paid roughly $50,000 on to a restricted legal responsibility firm that Mr. Sullivan controls, “ACS Marketing campaign Consulting.” However he earned way more by a secretive association that rewarded him with a reduce of the marketing campaign’s advert spending, in response to 4 individuals with direct information of the matter. Assuming the association was consistent with trade requirements, he would have netted a minimum of $500,000 — a determine he didn’t dispute.

The Instances might solely establish one different present consumer of Mr. Sullivan’s, the Reform Alliance, a nonprofit based by the rappers Meek Mill and Jay-Z and others to alter probation and parole legal guidelines. Mr. Sullivan wouldn’t establish different shoppers, however he mentioned that none had enterprise earlier than New York State. He added that he had “by no means been paid to foyer or affect the governor.”

The governor has leaned on different outsiders for assist: The state paid practically $2 million to Deloitte and Boston Consulting to assist her with State of the State messages. Others with Ms. Hochul’s ear embody Karen Persichilli Keogh, her prime authorities aide; Jefrey Pollock, her longtime pollster; and Daniel French, who was till not too long ago Syracuse College’s basic counsel.

Whereas these advisers are principally identified in political circles, even primary biographical details about Mr. Sullivan is tough to seek out. Ms. Hochul has talked about him prominently solely as soon as, from the stage after her victory in November. And he appears to be his consulting agency’s lone worker, working principally out of his residence in Leadville, Colo., the place he’s an avid skier, besides for infrequent journeys to New York.

Of two dozen lawmakers, union leaders and marketing campaign strategists contacted by The Instances, just a few might accurately establish him.

“I’ve by no means met him, I’ve simply heard dangerous issues about him — sorry,” Liz Krueger, an influential Democratic state senator from Manhattan, mentioned.

Mr. Sullivan’s proponents describe him as a gifted tactician who steered Ms. Hochul by the aftershocks of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s resignation and helped her win a full time period in workplace, even when it was bumpy.

“Possibly he’s not the New York backslapper who is aware of everyone, however Adam has an unquestionable document of success,” Jess Fassler, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s longtime chief of employees, mentioned.

Mr. Sullivan started his profession as a political operative in 2000, and ran his first New York race in 2008, the identical 12 months he helped Ms. Gillibrand win re-election to the Home.

He was recent off a stint with the Democratic Congressional Marketing campaign Committee in early 2011 when Ms. Hochul, then the Erie County clerk, determined to run in a particular Home election in western New York. She employed Mr. Sullivan as marketing campaign supervisor due to his expertise operating particular elections and his conviction, shared by few, that she might win. Regardless of lengthy odds, she did.

It was a boon for Mr. Sullivan. He managed a Senate race in New Mexico in 2012 and was Senator Mary Landrieu’s marketing campaign supervisor in her failed re-election bid in Louisiana in 2014, till he was abruptly fired simply weeks earlier than Election Day.

Ms. Landrieu mentioned in an interview she had changed Mr. Sullivan as a result of she was shedding and wished a extra acquainted workforce. Afterward, Mr. Sullivan’s political work dried up, and Ms. Hochul seems to have been his solely main political consumer since 2015.

Issues started to shift in summer time 2021, because it turned clear that sexual harassment claims would drive Mr. Cuomo from workplace. With solely a small circle round her, Ms. Hochul leaned on Mr. Sullivan, whose wedding ceremony she attended in 2018, to assist construct an administration, together with selecting Brian A. Benjamin as lieutenant governor. (Mr. Benjamin later resigned amid federal corruption prices.)

Mr. Sullivan performed an much more energetic function within the marketing campaign, involving himself in media technique, Ms. Hochul’s day-to-day schedule and bigger choices like find out how to allocate tens of millions of {dollars} on advert campaigns, together with the one he intervened in final Could.

In that case, the marketing campaign produced and examined the advert, “Protected,” to focus on public security adjustments authorised within the state funds. Ms. Hochul and different advisers pushed to air it throughout New York. Within the communications seen by The Instances, Ms. Hochul’s marketing campaign supervisor, Brian Lenzmeier, wrote that she “believes strongly that we have to get against the law advert into the combination and never be solely targeted on abortion.” (Mr. Lenzmeier declined to remark.)

However Mr. Sullivan usually insisted that crime was a shedding subject for Ms. Hochul. He believed the marketing campaign’s assets could be higher spent motivating Democrats to prove on the difficulty of abortion rights, so he pushed to restrict public security messaging in areas like Lengthy Island or to points like gun legal guidelines. Ultimately, the marketing campaign didn’t meaningfully problem Republicans on crime statewide till October, after that they had already whipped up a frenzy.

Ms. Hochul survived by simply six share factors in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, and some social gathering leaders imagine her strategy on crime helped Republicans win congressional seats. Consultant Nancy Pelosi, the previous Home speaker, informed The Instances’s Maureen Dowd that Ms. Hochul wanted to cope with crime “early on, not 10 days earlier than the election.”

Mr. Sullivan’s allies mentioned he stood by the marketing campaign’s dedication to prioritizing assaults on Ms. Hochul’s Republican opponent on abortion. Mr. Sullivan declined to touch upon marketing campaign technique.

Since then, he has additionally resisted any fast course correction on the state Democratic Celebration. He and Ms. Hochul have stood by its chairman, Jay Jacobs, who has change into a punching bag for Democrats, particularly on the left.

Mr. Sullivan’s allies say he and Ms. Hochul wish to strengthen the social gathering, however they might solely describe obscure plans. Within the meantime, nationwide Democrats don’t seem like ready, asserting their very own $45 million New York political machine.

“Adam is the primary particular person to choose up the cellphone and name me and be supportive,” Mr. Jacobs mentioned in an interview. “I don’t assume he has any agenda aside from the governor being profitable.”

Susan C. Beachy contributed analysis.

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