New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandals will give New York City its first female governor: low-profile politician Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat.
Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday, effective in two weeks. It came after an investigation by the state attorney general revealed that he had sexually harassed several women and that impeachment proceedings against him were escalating.
Now, the state constitution says Hochul will take over for the remainder of her term, which ends in 2023. She could decide to run for the job herself.
Hochul has been with Cuomo for six years as Number 2, but she’s largely outside her inner circle in part because the nature of her work is more ceremonial than political.
Popular among New York Democrats, Hochul has a resume filled with local, state, and national political roles – and that resume has been posted on several occasions by men who have behaved or would behave badly later. At the top of this list is Cuomo.
As the attorney general accused Cuomo of harassing 11 women, Hochul condemned her political ally: “I believe these women,” she said in a statement after the report was released. She initially stopped urging Cuomo to quit, but immediately after he did so she said in a statement that she agreed with his decision. His name was not mentioned at all in the report.
Hochul isn’t as well known in upstate New York, but she’s a Democratic Party insider. And perhaps most importantly for New York Democrats, she is controversial. She began her political career as an assistant to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, an icon of New York politics, working in Erie County.
Hochul later represented a relatively conservative district in western New York State in Congress, although she supported liberal priorities such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
She won a special election to fill the seat, which was left vacant by Rep. Chris Lee, RN.Y., who resigned in 2011 after allegedly sending a flirtatious email and a shirtless photo of himself to a woman on Craigslist. It was a somewhat unlikely seat for a Democrat; Hochul was the first Democrat in four decades to do so.
When New York City redesigned its congressional districts after the 2010 census, making its district even more conservative, it lost its 2012 re-election bid to Republican Chris Collins. (Collins became a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, and he later resigned and pleaded guilty to charges of insider trading and misrepresentation).
In 2014, Hochul bounced back politically, joining Cuomo in his bid for a second term as running mate. They won together again in 2018.
The reaction to Hochul’s rise in the midst of Cuomo’s fall has been largely, publicly, positive. “I have full confidence that Lieutenant Governor Hochul will establish a professional and competent administration,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, DN.Y. said in a statement, adding that he had spoken with Hochul Tuesday.
“I know our state is in good hands with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul at the helm,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, who oversaw the Cuomo investigation. When the governor’s race opens in 2022, both Hochul and James would be serious contenders if they decide to run.
In New York, the post of lieutenant governor is a “non-office” in that he has little power, said Basil Smikle, the former executive director of the New York Democratic Party. Hochul used it to mobilize Democrats behind Cuomo’s agenda and woo liberal Democrats who sometimes felt looked down on by Cuomo. “She’s very thoughtful,” said Smikle, adding that she will have the opportunity to bring new voices to policy making because of the relationships she has established.
Hochul’s profile has grown among voters since the start of the pandemic, when Cuomo became a national star for his candid coronavirus briefings. She served as his television surrogate, defending the administration’s decisions on when to close schools and how to reopen them, its rules for maskless dining in restaurants, and the state’s vaccine distribution strategy. .
“If you follow what we’ve been doing from the very beginning, it breaks my heart to know that the rest of the country, the whole of the United States could have had the same infection rate as us… 1% or less” , she said. said last fall, defending the Cuomo administration’s response while attacking Republicans at the federal level.
Before the Cuomo scandals, his political future looked destined to be his No.2 again as he prepared to run for a fourth term next year.
It will not be the first time that New York has diversified its leadership because of scandals.
In 2008, David Paterson became the first black governor of New York after the resignation of Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, following a prostitution scandal. At the time, Cuomo was the state attorney general.
As Paterson rose from lieutenant governor to serve the remainder of Spitzer’s tenure, it was Cuomo who became the dominant force in New York politics when the 2010 election was held. Now Cuomo is the one facing the harsh light of the scandal.
And New Yorkers are going to have a whole different tone of leadership.
“I imagine the [state] The Senate and the Assembly would like to work with her [over Cuomo]”Smikle said.” She’s a thousand times more collegial. They like her better.