Kathy Hochul Becomes New York’s First Female Governor After Cuomo’s Resignation

Kathy Hochul BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Yahoo.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has finally agreed to step down from his post following multiple allegations and a sexual harassment investigation, ushering in the first female governor of the nation’s most populous state.

As explained by the Associated Press, an investigative report released last week said Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women, many of whom had worked for him or the state. Similarly, Cuomo is at the center of a state Assembly investigation into impeachment over his administration’s handling of data on COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes, his $5 million contract for a book on pandemic leadership, and whether friends and family had special access to COVID-19 tests early in the pandemic.

Cuomo finally — although reluctantly — resigned last Tuesday, clearing the way for New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul to become the state’s first female governor.

The future governor called Cuomo’s decision “the right thing to do and in the best interests of New Yorkers” in a brief statement after his announcement.

“As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th governor,” she said.

In a statement shortly after the attorney general’s report was made public, Hochul said 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 added. “No one is above the law.”

At 62, Kathy Hochul is a household name in American politics. As NBC explained, Hochul grew up in a working-class Irish Catholic family in Western New York and has credited her father’s time as a steelworker and union organizer for her political views.

Hochul is a graduate of Syracuse University and received her law degree from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She began her career working for a Washington law firm and later for New York Democrats, Congressman John LaFalce, and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan before beginning her own political career back home.

She was first elected to public office in the 1980s as a council member in Hamburg, outside Buffalo. She rose through the political ranks with several local offices, eventually becoming Erie County clerk in 2007.

In 2008, the future governor caused controversy while serving as Erie County clerk after opposing then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Ten years later, she walked back her comments, stating that “times are totally different.”

In 2011, Kathy Hochul won a special election to the U.S. House of Representatives, flipping a district that spanned from Buffalo to Rochester and had long been controlled by Republicans, campaigning against the GOP’s plan to overhaul Medicare.

Redistricting made Hochul’s seat even more rural and conservative. She lost her 2012 re-election bid to Republican Chris Collins, who would later become the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president.

After working briefly as a lobbyist as vice president of government relations at M&T Bank, Hochul was selected by Cuomo in 2014 as his running mate in his re-election campaign, replacing retiring Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy. Hochul was seen as a boost to the candidacy given her rootedness in Erie County, which Cuomo lost in 2010.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was among the New York Democrats calling on Cuomo to resign after the attorney general’s report was released, said Hochul “will be an extraordinary governor.”

“She understands the complexities and needs of our state, having been both a congresswoman and having been lieutenant governor for the last several years,” Gillibrand said. “She is ready and able and capable of being an extraordinary governor, and I look forward to supporting her and helping her as she turns toward governing our state in a very difficult and challenging time.”