Governor Andrew M. Cuomo finally gave himself the boot this Tuesday, Aug. 10, leaving room for New York State’s first woman governor to be sworn in. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is a 62-year-old moderate, life-long Democrat from Buffalo, New York.
“I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers,” said Hochul in a tweet on Tuesday. “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.”
An independent investigation from the state attorney general’s office concluded Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women while in office. He deliberated about resigning while colleagues called for impeachment all last week.
“I believe these brave women,” Hochul wrote to the Associated Press (AP) about Cuomo’s investigation.
Hochul has not been part of Cuomo’s inner circle of aides and allies or named in the investigation, said the AP, and will be officially sworn in as governor in two weeks.
Born and raised in Buffalo to a working-class Irish Catholic family, Hochul was the second of six children. Her grandparents were Irish immigrants who fled poverty. Her grandfather became a migrant worker in the wheat fields of South Dakota. Later, they settled in Buffalo for promised jobs at Bethlehem Steel. Hochul’s father was also a steel worker and community union organizer.
According to her bio, Hochul has been married to her husband since 1984, and is the mother of two.
Hochul credits her family’s background for her “fighting spirit.” Something that carried her through her journey as a young attorney, Hamburg Town Councilmember for 14 years, aide to Congressmember John LaFalce and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a member of her Town Board, Erie County Clerk from 2007 to 2011, and then as a congress member herself.
She was the 26th Congressional District Congress member from 2011 to 2013. She had a surprising win in a special election in an entrenched Republican district to get her congressional seat, but lost a bid for reelection to Republican Chris Collins.
Collins later resigned and pleaded guilty to insider trading.
Hochul was elected along with Cuomo in November 2014 as the 77th lieutenant governor, after previous Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy decided he wouldn’t run for reelection.
As lieutenant governor, Hochul was described as “the friendly face of the administration,” said the AP.
In running for a second term with Cuomo in 2018, Hochul was up against Democratic powerhouse Jumaane D. Williams, then councilmember from Brooklyn and now New York City public advocate. Cuomo told reporters then that he fully backed Hochul for her old congressional seat and not for reelection as lieutenant governor.
Buffalo News described Hochul as a “survivor” in the realm of politics with a “tenacious work ethic” and a “disarming” demeanor.
In the past, Hochul has been an advocate for women and progressive issues, such as Medicare-for-All and a $15 minimum wage with paid family leave.
In 2006, Hochul, her mother and aunt established the Kathleen Mary House, a transitional home for victims of domestic violence, and they served on its Board of Directors. She, unironically, led the advocacy campaigns for many of Cuomo’s signature initiatives about sexual assault prevention and laws against sexual harassment.
Hochul has also been known to “flip-flop” on charged Republican issues, such as gun rights or giving undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses, reported Buffalo News.
When former Governor Eliot Spitzer was in office, Hochul and another western New York clerk explored a plan to have police arrest immigrants who tried to apply for licenses back in 2007, said the AP.
Regardless of her stance on issues, Hochul has garnered support from downstate for her upcoming role as governor.
“This is the right decision and is in the best interest of all New Yorkers. I stand ready to work with incoming Governor Kathy Hochul as we guide our City through these challenging times and do the hard work of leading a safe, equitable recovery for NYC,” said New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams via Twitter.
“I believe that our Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is immensely qualified to step into that role on day one and lead New York to brighter days,” said Senator Anna M. Kaplan. “Lieutenant Governor Hochul has often been called an Honorary Long Islander because she spends so much time here fighting for issues that matter to us, and standing up for small businesses in our community.”