Who’s Kathy Hochul? Governor Cuomo’s Potential Successor
BUFFALO – As Governor Andrew M. Cuomo faces the biggest political crisis of his career, New Yorkers are becoming increasingly curious about Governor Kathy Hochul, who would replace him when he was gone, with multiple allegations of sexual harassment and growing demands for his resignation in office.
Mr Cuomo has vigorously denied his inappropriate behavior and repeatedly ignored calls to resign, but he is losing the support of more leaders in his party every day and the state legislature has launched an impeachment investigation. Should Mr. Cuomo step down or step down, Mrs. Hochul would be the first woman in history to serve as governor of New York.
Ms. Hochul, from the Buffalo area, is a trained attorney and served briefly as a member of Congress. Mr. Cuomo selected her as his companion in 2014 and she has won two national elections for the role. She makes a living from campaigning in retail and has spent much of her time as lieutenant governor outside of Albany touring the state.
If she were to take over the governorship soon, she would face a number of pressing legislative considerations and responsibilities, including negotiating budgets, running New York through its vaccination program, and managing its economic recovery.
The controversy surrounding Mr Cuomo has so far divided the Democrats bitterly, and Ms. Hochul, 62, would also be called upon to help the state heal.
Here’s what you need to know about Ms. Hochul.
She is no stranger to politics …
Ms. Hochul, who grew up in an Irish Catholic family in western New York facing economic hardship, graduated from Syracuse University and received a law degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. After a time in a law firm, Dr. Hochul turned to the government and served as an advisor to then Deputy John J. LaFalce and then Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
“It was particularly at this time that I realized what great political skills she had when she traveled with me,” recalled LaFalce. “She is a person of the people.”
When she returned to New York after her time on Capitol Hill, she rose through a number of local posts, including a position in the City of Hamburg, an enclave in western New York, and later the role of Erie County Clerk.
In 2011, Ms. Hochul won a special congressional election in a relatively conservative district that stretched from Buffalo to Rochester. This turned the race into a successful referendum on Republicans’ plans to overtake Medicare at the time, and she demonstrated her skills as an activist. But after the redistribution made that terrain even more Republican, she lost her re-election offer in 2012.
Ms. Hochul continued to serve as Vice President, Government Relations at M&T Bank Corporation, and in 2014 Mr. Cuomo selected her as his fellow campaigner during his first re-election campaign. She replaced Robert J. Duffy, who served Mr. Cuomo as lieutenant governor during his first term.
Ms. Hochul won re-election to that position in 2018, defeating Jumaane D. Williams, now New York City’s attorney, by less than seven percentage points. New Yorkers elect governor and lieutenant governor separately rather than as part of a ticket, and Ms. Hochul won more counties across the state than Mr. Cuomo, despite winning his own elementary school by around 30 percentage points.
… But she’s hardly a fixture in Albany.
If vice presidents have complained about marginalization in Washington in the past, lieutenants tend to be worse off.
And it is not believed that Mr. Cuomo, who once stated, “I am the government”, has a particularly close personal or professional relationship with Ms. Hochul.
The lieutenant governor has spent much of her time on the streets highlighting the government’s agenda and driving extensive political action on the ground.
“She’s spent all of her time in the lieutenant governor’s seat like a nationwide election campaign,” said state senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat.
Through this process and her efforts to promote women in particular who run for office, Ms. Hochul has built her own nationwide network that was important for her re-election campaign and will be of crucial importance for future applications for office. If she becomes the incumbent governor, say those close to her, she will seek re-election next year.
She has roots as a political moderator.
Ms Hochul has adopted the agenda of the Cuomo government, which has shifted further to the left in recent years, and she has highlighted a number of political priorities, including economic development and gender equality issues.
But as the Erie County Clerk, Ms. Hochul made a name for herself by vigorously speaking out against efforts to offer driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. She later changed her mind, but it is one of several earlier positions that illustrate her roots as a fairly conservative Democrat.
She ran undeniably as a moderate democrat in her special elections.
“She was a candidate for the right to center in a right-of-center district,” said former New York representative Steve Israel, who at the time chaired the Democratic Congress campaign committee.
“She presented herself as an independent person who was unwilling to join the party line, but she also had the opportunity to connect with progressive voters on fundamental issues such as choice and the environment,” Israel said. “She was able to weave the two in a district that looks a lot like America today.”
On a personal level, Ms. Hochul appears to be very popular with lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum, and her goal is to build a wide range of relationships. But she would likely be skeptical from the left, both if she became governor and if she chose to run for office again.
A product of West New York, her rise would make history.
Ms. Hochul grew up in the Buffalo area, former President Barack Obama appointed her husband as a U.S. attorney for the western borough of New York, and her friendly, approachable demeanor and Buffalo accent conjure up a style that is more Midwestern than Western Manhattan lies. When Mr Cuomo named it on the ticket, it was seen as a measure of geographic and gender diversity.
There is great respect for Ms. Hochul in her hometown, at least among those who are familiar with her work.
“She’s a very hard worker – I think she’s one of the hardest working elected officials in New York State,” said Sean Mulligan, 47, a local government official who met his young daughter outside a restaurant in the city on Thursday Near the water. “She would be a good fit to get into the role. And to have a governor? We are overdue for that. “
Many states have never had a governor – and while Ms. Hochul could rise to that role under uncomfortable circumstances, a female executive director of one of the largest states in the country would most likely feel meaningful to many New Yorkers.
What happens next?
In a press conference on Friday, Mr Cuomo stated that he had no intention of resigning despite increasing pressure from a previously largely silent Congress delegation. The Assembly has approved the start of an impeachment investigation, although many steps would be required even if Mr Cuomo were indicted before his removal, including a trial of the Senate and a vote to convict him.
If Mr. Cuomo is removed or resigns, Ms. Hochul will become governor. She would also serve as acting governor during impeachment proceedings.
For her part, Ms. Hochul said little about the allegations against Mr. Cuomo other than supporting the independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
Instead, she spent her Friday out of the public eye with one exception: she broadcast her Covid-19 vaccination via livestream.