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Who is Kathy Hochul? Meet New York’s Incoming, History-Making Governor

The lieutenant governor once represented Andrew Cuomo all over the state. Now the former Congress member from Buffalo is set to become the state’s first female governor Aug. 24. Incoming New York Gov. Kathy Hochul | Darren McGee/Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office

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This article was originally published
by The CITY on Aug 10 
BY Clifford Michel

Shortly after sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo surfaced, his press office stopped regularly publishing the public schedule of his next in line: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The former member of Congress from Buffalo, who had simply expressed support for the investigation launched by State Attorney General Letitia James, went about her largely powerless job, attending ceremonies and making it a point of pride to visit all of New York’s 62 counties at least once annually.

Among them: Bronx County, where Hochul attended the local Democratic Party’s “unity” celebration last week following Eric Adams’ win in the mayoral primary.

Now the 62-year-old Democrat, elected in 2014, is about to make her presence known in a far bigger fashion when she replaces Cuomo as governor beginning Aug. 24.

With Cuomo’s announcement Tuesday that he’s stepping down in two weeks, Hochul is poised to make history as New York’s first female governor — and the first to come to Albany from north of Peekskill since Gov. Nathan Miller took office a century ago.

“As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor,” Hochul declared Tuesday.

Hochul would come into the top office after over five years of tirelessly zig zagging across a state of nearly 20 million people on Cuomo’s behalf, attending ribbon-cuttings and touting the executive office’s achievements. She also helmed the governor’s “Enough is Enough” campaign against sexual violence on college campuses.

Now, as New York’s incoming next leader, Hochul’s getting ready to endure scrutiny of a relatively modest public service record that might suggest political pragmatism to some or a penchant for chameleonism to others. Her fans say she’s up to the job.

“She’s a tough chick from Buffalo and I think she’ll be prepared,” said State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn). “She certainly knows the issue that affects the state from the North Country to the South Bronx.”

Targeted Immigrants for Arrest

Before Hochul became the second lieutenant governor of Cuomo’s three terms, she amassed a history as a center-right Democrat.

In 1994, she was elected to her first political office –– joining the Hamburg Town Board –– after running on both the Democratic and Conservative ballot lines. She became Erie County clerk in 2007. And when she sought re-election three years later, she ran on four party lines: Democratic, Independence, Conservative and the Working Families Party.

In 2007, she fought then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to issue driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Hochul, then the Erie County clerk, teamed with another upstate county clerk and worked with law enforcement to formulate a plan to arrest undocumented immigrants who applied in their counties.

Her Democratic bona fides have been hip-checked several times since then.

In 2018, as actress and activist Cynthia Nixon ran for governor and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams sought the lieutenant governor slot, they pushed for driver’s licenses for undocumented New Yorkers. Hochul, in a turnaround, tacitly gave her approval.

“I think she probably reflects the politics of western New York, which tend to be similar to Staten Island: moderate in many respects,” said Savino.

In 2011, Hochul ran her first congressional race and beat a Republican in a conservative district that had been held by the GOP since the 1960s. She won the congressional special election race by five percentage points — likely helped by a Tea Party candidate who siphoned off Republican votes.

Office of the Lt. Governor Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul gets a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2016.

During her brief stint in the House of Representatives, Hochul campaigned heavily against a Republican plan to convert Medicare into a voucher program that could also be used in the private market.

In 2012, Republican Chris Collins, a former Erie County executive, challenged her re-election bid. The lines of her congressional district had been changed by a federal magistrate. She lost her seat to Collins by 5,000 votes or a margin of 1.6 percentage points.

Shortly after leaving Congress, Buffalo-based M&T Bank Corporation hired her as vice president of government relations.

Her political comeback came in 2014, when Cuomo’s first lieutenant governor, former Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy, bowed out. Duffy said he couldn’t keep up with the hectic travel schedule the job requires.

There was no such problem with Hochul: After her election, Cuomo began sending her across the state to highlight his pet projects and serve as his administration’s main surrogate, bringing her to all corners of New York.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visits a merchant in Jackson Heights. Office of the Lt. Governor

Visits to New York City may not be enough for Hochul to prove to downstate Democrats that she’s the right candidate to potentially succeed Cuomo in a 2022 election, especially with local officials like Williams said to be considering a run.

Still, she has shown an ability to fundraise when needed, collecting and spending nearly $4.8 million in her two congressional runs. So far, her campaign has raised $1.9 million this cycle and has $1.7 million on hand.

From Upstate to D.C. and Back

Hochul was born the second of six children to Jack and Pat Courtney, who started their marriage living in a small trailer in Buffalo. Her father was a clerical worker at Bethlehem Steel, where he also was an union organizer. He eventually became president of an information technology company.

Hochul attended Syracuse University, where she boycotted a campus bookstore for high prices and tried to get the school to name their famous stadium, the Carrier Dome, after alumnus and NFL player Ernie Davis. She also rallied to get the university to divest from South Africa to help end aparthied.

After graduating from Catholic University with a law degree, Hochul worked at a Washington law firm. She later toiled on Capitol Hill as an attorney and legislative aide for then-Rep. John J. LaFalce and U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, both New York Democrats.

Hochul lives in Buffalo with her husband, William Hochul, a former U.S. Attorney for Western New York who now works as general counsel for Delaware North, a hospitality company. They have two adult children, William and Katie.

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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16 Comments

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Lucky number 7 train

the last three Democrat NY Governors all resigned with scandals and nobody thinks it’s time for a change. just virtue signaling. sad how shallow people have become.

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Maritza

Hopefully Hochul will choose a person of color for her next in line: Lt. Gov. or else she has no chance of winning the 2022 Governor election.

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the problem with people today

Martiza- all you think about is race you cant leave a comment with say ” a person of color” what is up with that? I’m pretty sure I know why

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Beth

With New York City being the most populated and diverse city in the United States you are 100% correct.

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Gardens Watcher

How about she chooses a New Yorker who can step into the job at a moment’s notice? How about Kathryn Garcia?

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Pamela

Andrew Cuomo always reminded me of Joe Giudice from The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Joe Giudice cheated on Teresa and spent time in prison for tax fraud. He was deported and sent back to Italy. I wish we could Deport Andrew Cuomo for all that he has done.

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Meet the cure

She’s another liberal who will sink the state
The voters especially in nyc are addicted to the dem party no matter how destructive
This is an addiction

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ABoondy

they are all legit when they start. motivated and ambitious. as the decades go by, they become power hungry, greedy and corrupt. case in point with the ex-gov.

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Jess

Right, because replacing Cuomo with a female politician that stood by while he did all the things he did suddenly makes it better.

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Gardens Watcher

Hochul didn’t “stand by”and didn’t know about his harassment at the times it was alleged to have occurred. She doesn’t spent all that much time in Albany anyway, and none of the accusers filed formal HR complaints at the time or later.

NYS is facing serious problems with Covid, the concerns about schools reopening, the massive budget deficit issues and exodus of jobs, the ongoing threat of terrorists (domestic and foreign), etc. I am willing to give her a honeymoon and wish her well. I hope she can deal with all of these problems, and for the sake of the state, all New Yorkers should hope that she can.

But you are all too ready to trash Kathy Hochul, who will be our first female Governor in NYS history. Right, got it sister. It appears the DSA marching orders are to trash Hochul before she is even sworn in, but then what can we expect from a group whose aim is to blow up the Democratic Party.

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Tom

As governor, Hochul will undoubtedly have a less toxic office environment. That much will be easy. But she has a very short period of time in which to reverse the fiscal irresponsibility of the state, restore law and order, and oppose her party’s “woke” agenda. If she does that, with NY as a political platform, she could catapult herself into the forefront of American politics. If she doesn’t, she’ll be gone. All it takes is a little common sense and the political will.

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Haley

It’s great to see women taking power. Kamala Harris is such an inspiration to all woman and people of color.

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