History Born From Scandal: Kathy Hochul May Become New York’s First Woman Governor

Kathy Hochul is the 77th Lieutenant Governor of New York. In the United States, the main duty of the lieutenant governor is to act as governor, should the governor be temporarily away from office. If Governor Cuomo is eventually obligated to leave office or step down, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul would take over his responsibilities and become acting Governor. In recent weeks, this has become a distinct possibility. Cuomo is facing increasing public scrutiny and investigation over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with former aides, and the alleged cover-up of nursing home deaths amid Covid-19. Many New York politicians of the governor’s same party, Democrats, are calling for Cuomo’s resignation, including New York State Senate Majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and both of the New York U.S. Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. Cuomo doesn’t intend to step down, and as a result, he risks being impeached. The last New York impeachment proceedings of a governor were in 1913 against Governor Sulzer, and at that time, Lieutenant Governor Martin H. Glynn became acting governor. As is true on the federal level, impeachment on the state level is a political proceeding reserved to the state legislature. If the impeachment of Cuomo passes in the Assembly, it moves up to the Senate for a trial, where a two-thirds majority is necessary to convict. If Cuomo were to be impeached by the Assembly, he would be removed from his position as Governor, and Kathy Hochul would become the first woman in history to hold the position of New York governor. 

But who is Kathy Hochul? Hochul served as Erie County clerk from 2007-2011, and earlier, spent 14 years as a member of the Hamburg Town Council. She possesses a Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, and a law degree from Catholic University in Washington DC. Her legal career began when she worked at a major law firm in Washington. Later, she worked as legal counsel and legislative assistant to Congressman John LaFalce and then Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Hochul served in the U.S. House of Representatives and shortly thereafter, in 2014, Cuomo named Hochul as his running mate for his second term, replacing Robert Duffy. In 2018, the lieutenant governor ran on the ticket with the governor for a second, four-year term.

Hochul is an avid supporter of women’s reproductive freedom and the rights of the LGBTQ community. As lieutenant governor, Hochul constantly fights for working families. She advocated forcefully for  the successful fight for a $15 minimum wage, as well as for Paid Family Leave. She is the Chair of the Regional Economic Development Councils and has worked to secure a significant increase of workforce development funding. In addition, she is the Chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction and focuses on policies to battle the extensive opioid epidemic. 

Hochul, along with her mother, created the Kathleen Mary House, a transitional home for victims of domestic violence, in 2006. She prioritizes being a voice for all women and she is Chair of the Women’s Suffrage Commission. In that position, she highlights New Yorkers’ roles in women’s suffrage, and she has said that daily, the legacy of these feminists motivates her in her job as lieutenant governor. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hochul has been a spokesperson for the New York government and its priorities. Hochul makes appearances and leads task forces while gathering support in communities and with legislators. 

Hochul is widely respected by Democratic officials and lawmakers across New York state and often meets with them. As Cuomo has been consistently losing support, Hochul has appealed to more state Democrats. The lieutenant governor has said that she doesn’t feel that it is her place to weigh in on the sexual allegations against Governor Cuomo. However, Hochul is very vocal about her views on sexual harassment and assault. “Enough is enough” is the 2015 legislation that the Cuomo administration urged in an attempt to try to terminate sexual assaults on college campuses. As Hochul told Politico, “I’m going to be a Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Louise Slaughter. I’m going to be late 80s when I say goodbye to this business and only because ‘somebody’ comes knocking.” If Hochul becomes the incumbent governor, people in her inner circle say she will likely seek re-election. Where is Lieutenant Governor Hochul’s career heading next?  Stay tuned to the New York state Assembly and Senate to see what happens with Governor Cuomo’s impeachment proceedings to learn the answer.