Kathy Hochul Makes History Amid Cuomo’s Downfall
In two weeks, New York will have a new governor: Kathy Hochul, a girl from western New York State who rose to public life thanks to her genius and work ethic, and the middle fallout from disgraced politicians who resigned.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday announced he would step down, following a report by the state attorney general that revealed he had sexually harassed at least 11 women, many of whom were employees of the ‘State.
He will officially step down in 14 days, when his longtime lieutenant governor Ms Hochul, 62, will take his place. If she runs in next year’s election for a full term, as scheduled, she will have the benefit of being the outgoing candidate.
When she is sworn in, she will make history as the first woman to serve as governor of New York. The fact that his rise occurred through the fall of a man is a testament to the state’s long history of male political domination and its long history of male misconduct, something that has become a growing political responsibility in the midst of the evolution of social mores around power and gender dynamics.
It was only recently that women began to assume the highest positions of state, and more often than not, they did so after the men who came before them resigned in disgrace.
“Why are these women the second step?” Why weren’t they there in the first place? Said Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, who argued that the reluctance of New Yorkers to elect women to higher positions showed that the state was not as progressive as it was. he claims so.
MP Amy Paulin, who represents a district of Westchester, noted that Andrea Stewart-Cousins had only recently become the first female majority leader in the state Senate. Ms Stewart-Cousins and Letitia James, the state’s first female attorney general, both took office in 2019.
“This is the next step, the biggest step, the big step,” she added, “but it has been an evolution over the last few years and a good development.”
Ms. Hochul’s political agenda and the makeup of her cabinet remain in the planning stages. Ms Hochul, a Democrat, did not say much to reporters on Tuesday, releasing a statement through a spokesperson saying she was ready to take office. She plans to hold a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
“As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am ready to lead as the 57th Governor of New York State,” she said. .
Ms. Hochul (pronounced HOH-kuhl) grew up as one of six children of an Irish Catholic family in Hamburg, a town outside of Buffalo. Her parents started their married life in a trailer while her father graduated from college. Her father ended up running an information technology company, while her mother co-founded a shelter for domestic violence survivors.
She would graduate from Syracuse University, a law degree from Catholic University of America, and engage in private practice. Soon after, she began working for the government, first as an assistant to Representative John J. LaFalce, then to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
She eventually returned to western New York and embarked on local politics, first as a member of Hamburg City Council, then as Clerk of Erie County, where she gained a national notoriety for having challenged the proposal of Governor Eliot Spitzer to grant driving licenses to undocumented migrants.
In 2011, the opportunity came in the form of a congressman named Christopher Lee, a Republican who resigned after sending a woman a shirtless photo of himself that ended up on the internet.
Ms Hochul won the ensuing special election in one of New York’s more conservative districts, playing on fears that Republicans would eliminate Medicare. The following year, after redistribution made her district even more conservative, she lost her seat to Chris Collins, a Republican who would also later resign in disgrace.
In 2014, Mr. Cuomo selected Ms. Hochul as his running mate, in an apparent effort to build support in western New York.
In the years that followed, she made it a point to visit each of New York’s 62 counties to cut ribbons, attend rallies and promote business. His dedication and friendship have earned him respect statewide, but not necessarily in the executive chamber, where his relationship with Mr. Cuomo has remained largely transactional.
After allegations against Mr. Cuomo began to mount earlier this year, she distanced herself even further.
After the attorney general’s report revealed that Mr Cuomo had harassed 11 women, making his political stance untenable, he announced his resignation and Ms Hochul had her biggest opportunity to date.
During his resignation speech, Mr. Cuomo expressed confidence in Ms. Hochul’s ability to govern.
“Kathy Hochul, my lieutenant governor, is smart and knowledgeable,” Cuomo said. “This transition must be transparent. We have a lot to do. I’m very worried about the Delta variant, and you should be too, but it can upgrade quickly.
Now Ms Hochul is tasked with quickly building a cabinet, crafting an agenda, and tackling the remaining two weeks of Mr Cuomo’s tenure.
On Tuesday, before his resignation, Mr. Cuomo’s office alerted Ms. Hochul to what was to come. After her speech, he called her personally, according to a senior official. We don’t know what they discussed.
In recent days, Hochul has asked allies about their recommendations for positions in her cabinet. She seeks to create a diverse and geographically balanced cabinet between the north and the lower part of the state, said a person who spoke to her.
She also brought in two seasoned national political hands as consultants, Meredith Kelly and Trey Nix. And she consulted Jeffrey H. Pearlman, his former lawyer and chief of staff, who served as David Paterson’s attorney when he became governor after Mr Spitzer resigned amid revelations he had solicited prostitutes.
“Obviously, we’re still here, hopefully, at the end of a global pandemic, and I think that’s his # 1 priority,” said Jeremy Zellner, chairman of the County Democratic Committee. Erie and friend of Mrs. Hochul. Mr Zellner added that Ms Hochul also faced a range of other challenges, from unemployment to gun violence.
“I think she has her work cut out for her,” he said. “But I would say there’s no one better to step in now than she is.”
Kitty bennett contributed research.
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