Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will take the helm of New York’s highest office in 14 days, becoming the state’s first female governor, after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday in the wake of multiple sexual harassment allegations.
“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,” Hochul said in a statement 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.”
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.
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.
— Kathy Hochul (@LtGovHochulNY) August 10, 2021
After New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report on August 3rd documenting wide-ranging allegations from 11 women of sexual harassment by Cuomo, Hochul broke ranks with Cuomo and called the allegations “repulsive.”
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service. The AG’s investigation has documented repulsive & unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women & admire their courage coming forward,” she said.
As reaction to Cuomo’s stunning announcement Tuesday rolled in, lawmakers and public officials called Hochul “dedicated” and “an honest broker” who they hoped will steer the state well.
“Working with Governor Kathy Hochul, the first woman Governor of New York State, we will continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuild our economy and face our challenges standing together. Governor Hochul is a dedicated leader, and united, we will get the people’s work done,” said State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement.
As the Senate Majority Leader, Stewart-Cousins is next in the line of succession to become lieutenant governor temporarily until Hochul picks her replacement— a precedent set in the previous resignation of disgraced Governor Eliot Spitzer, when his lieutenant governor David Paterson picked Dick Ravitch to serve as his number 2.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who frequently sparred with Cuomo over management of the city, said last week that Hochul “strikes me as a very reasonable person.”
“I believe what we’ve experienced with Andrew Cuomo is wildly aberrant. It’s not how normal people act,” de Blasio said. “I believe that if Kathy Hochul becomes Governor, she’ll be an honest broker, we’ll be able to work together, and get to work addressing issues that we need to address. You know, right now we should be focused on fighting COVID and, you know, bringing back this city and state. And instead we’re having to talk about things like sexual harassment and assault. It makes no sense. If Kathy Hochul’s in office, I’m quite sure we can work together.”
Make no mistake, this is the result of survivors bravely telling their stories. It was past time for Andrew Cuomo to resign and it’s for the good of all New York.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 10, 2021
A Buffalo native, the 62-year-old Hochul attended Syracuse University and received her law degree from Catholic University in Washington D.C. She worked as an aide to former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and served on the Hamburg Town Board for a decade and as Erie County clerk.
Hochul was elected to Congress in 2011 in a special election but was voted out in 2012 after redistricting turned the district solidly Republican. She was added to Cuomo’s ticket in 2014 after the previous lieutenant governor, Bob Duffy, said he would not seek re-election.
“She’s a tough chick from Buffalo and I think she’ll be prepared,” State Sen. Diane Savino told The CITY. “She certainly knows the issue that affects the state from the North Country to the South Bronx.”
Of note is her husband William Hochul, who is senior vice president and the general counsel for Delaware North, a multibillion-dollar global hospitality, sports entertainment, and gaming company with business before the state including the concessions for Niagara Falls state park and the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. The company is currently seeking to expand its role in gaming applications, a highly regulated but lucrative market in the state.
“It’s billions of dollars in gambling activity that New York State regulators have to approve,” said John Kaehny, head of Reinvent Albany. “Hochul’s husband is actively in a role where he and his firm are lobbying the state of New York for permission to do more gambling business.”
Kaehny said the clear concern is that as Governor, Hochul or members of her immediate staff may be asked to make a decision that has a direct impact on her husband’s company. The way to address that, Kaehny said, is sunlight and transparency.
“Everything having to do with Delaware North and their relationship with New York State needs to be completely transparent,” said Kaehny, including all decisions from the gaming commission and how they are made. It is also vital, he said, that other state leaders have a role on the decision-making process so that it is not something conducted privately between the governor’s office and Delaware North. “They have to be under a very bright light,” Kaehny added.
The lieutenant governor’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Some of Hochul’s stances have alienated more left-leaning Democrats. In 2007, as then-Erie County Clerk, Hochul “threatened to turn over to federal border security officers the names of any undocumented immigrants who sought a driver’s license in one of her DMV offices in the county,” the Buffalo News reported. She is said to have “evolved” on the issue after becoming Cuomo’s lieutenant governor. In 2012, she was endorsed in her Congressional campaign by the National Rifle Association.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who ran in the Democratic primary against her in the 2018 gubernatorial race, said in a statement, “Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and I have disagreed in the past about the direction of our state and its leadership. At the same time, in assuming this role, we need her to stabilize New York in a perilous moment and against an incessant volley of crises, and I – as we all should be- am ready to work with her to recover from this pandemic and rebuild New York. I hope that over the coming months she will be able to begin to address the toxic culture created by Governor Cuomo and those around him who empowered and enabled him, and all the damage the administration has wrought.”
New York City’s presumptive next mayor said in a tweet he welcomes the new governor.
“This is the right decision and is in the best interest of all New Yorkers,” said Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams, who will likely work closely with Hochul. “I stand ready to work with incoming Governor @KathyHochul as we guide our City through these challenging times and do the hard work of leading a safe, equitable recovery for NYC.”
And Attorney General James, whose report on the allegations against Cuomo led directly to Hochul’s “ascension” as she called it, said her leadership “will help New York enter a new day.”
“I know our state is in good hands with Lieutenant Governor Hochul at the helm, and I look forward to continuing to work with her,” James said in a statement.