Kathy Hochul to become New York's 1st female governor after Cuomo resigns

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·6-min read

Following New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation on Tuesday, his lieutenant, Kathy Hochul, will become the state’s first female governor.

Cuomo stepped down following an investigation led by New York Attorney General Letitia James that found he had sexually harassed nearly a dozen women. James released a report last week detailing the findings and concluding that Cuomo had “sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws.”

In a message posted to Twitter on Tuesday morning, Hochul said she was “prepared” to take over for Cuomo. 

Hochul, a Buffalo native and former Democratic congresswoman, will now assume the governorship and become the first governor from outside New York City or its neighboring counties in nearly a century.

Kathy Hochul
New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. (Seth Wenig/AP)

After the release of the report last week, Hochul tweeted, “I believe these brave women & admire their courage coming forward.

“No one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps.” 

However, she stopped short of calling for Cuomo’s impeachment or resignation. “Because Lieutenant Governors stand next in the line of succession, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the process at this moment,” she wrote.

But numerous lawmakers and politicians did not hesitate in calling on Cuomo to resign, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and, most notably, President Biden.

Andrew Cuomo, left, and Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul at a Staten Island Heroin Task Force meeting in 2016. (Seth Wenig/AP)

“I think he should resign. I understand that the state Legislature may decide to impeach. I don’t know that for a fact. I have not read all the data,” Biden said last Tuesday.

Hochul has served as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor for nearly seven years, after being elected in 2014 as his running mate and winning reelection in 2018.

She first gained national attention when she upset a U.S. House special election in 2011 for New York’s 26th Congressional District, which had sent a Republican to Congress for the previous four decades. The prior occupant of the seat, Rep. Christopher Lee, resigned during his term after a shirtless photo of him, emailed to a woman he met on Craigslist, was published online.

While in Congress, Hochul introduced the Clothe a Homeless Hero Act, which directs airports to donate unclaimed clothing at security checkpoints to local veterans’ organizations and became law in 2013. However, her time in Congress was short-lived; she lost reelection to a Republican candidate in the redrawn district in 2012.

Hochul, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and a law degree from Catholic University, has a long history of working in New York state politics.

Kathy Hochul, second from left
Hochul, then a congresswoman, at a mock swearing-in with House Speaker John Boehner, right, her daughter Katie and husband, Bill, on June 1, 2011. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After graduating from law school, she worked as a legal counsel and an aide to two former Democratic politicians, Rep. John LaFalce and the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She went on to be elected to the Hamburg Town Board in Erie County, N.Y., and served until 2007, when she was elected as the Erie County clerk.

During her time on the town board, Hochul, along with her mother and aunt, founded the Kathleen Mary House in 2006, a transitional home for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. She told Politico that her grandmother had been a victim of domestic abuse, which prompted her and her mother’s activism on the issue.

Before running for lieutenant governor, Hochul was known for being a moderate. During her tenure as county clerk, she built up a pro-gun record, which led her to be endorsed by the National Rifle Association during her congressional reelection campaign in 2012.

In 2007, she opposed a proposal by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer that would allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to obtain driver’s licenses, vowing to have them arrested if they applied for a driver’s license in the offices under her control. As lieutenant governor, Hochul reversed her stance, saying, “This is a different climate right now. … I would say my position now is different.”

Kathy Hochul
Hochul at the New York state Capitol in January 2019. (Hans Pennink/AP)

She has also since reversed her stance on gun laws and backed the NY SAFE Act, a state law signed by Cuomo that is one of the toughest gun control laws in the country.

As lieutenant governor, Hochul chairs 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, which work with leaders from academia, business and nonprofits on various projects across the state. She also leads the State Workforce Investment Board, which addresses the lack of skilled workers in businesses, and co-chairs the Heroin and Opioid Abuse Task Force. She spearheaded the Enough Is Enough campaign, which combats sexual assault on college campuses.

Despite being Cuomo’s No. 2 in command, Hochul was never close to the governor. After allegations of sexual assault against him emerged earlier this year, she stopped mentioning Cuomo by name. In his 300-page pandemic memoir, which highlights members of his administration who helped him respond to the COVID-19 crisis, he significantly omits Hochul’s name.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, celebrates with his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul after defeating Republican challenger Rob Astorino, at Democratic election headquarters in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Cuomo with Hochul, his running mate, after defeating his Republican challenger in 2014. (Kathy Willens/AP)

On Thursday, the state Assembly announced that its impeachment investigation against Cuomo was “nearing completion” and requested that he and his legal team submit any defense evidence by Friday of this week.

The Assembly had begun an investigation, separate from the attorney general’s, in March because it had been looking into several possible misconduct cases, including Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.

Since the release of James’s report, the Assembly had worked to expedite the impeachment process. A simple majority vote to impeach from lawmakers in the Assembly would have led to a trial in the state Senate, where Democrats are also in the majority. If Cuomo had been convicted, he would have been removed from office, and Hochul would have replaced him.

Hochul is not the first lieutenant governor to assume the gubernatorial position. In 2008, Spitzer resigned following a prostitution scandal and was succeeded by his lieutenant governor, David Paterson.

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