Image courtesy of ABC News
At midnight August 24th, New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, age 62, becomes the 57th governor of New York—and the first woman to hold the highest office in the state. In the wake of Andrew Cuomo’s waning days in office, his last public appeal was warning New Yorkers of Hurricane Henri, a storm with repercussions as “serious as a heart attack.” The same could be said of Cuomo, whose forced resignation and departure from office was the result of repercussions multiple accusations of sexual impropriety.
It is not, perhaps, a celebratory atmosphere for such a monumental accomplishment for Hochul, for New York, and indeed, for women in politics. With beginnings established in 1609, when the Dutch first discovered and occupied the massive territory called New Netherlands, New York was settled as a colony by the Dutch in 1624. Despite the many difficulties that have, and continue to, besiege the New York—and, most famously, New York City, there is one thing to be said about New Yorkers: they’re resilient. And, like Frank Sinatra crooned, “If I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York.” And now, to a great extent, it’s gonna be up to Kathy Hochul.
Who, then, is Kathy Hochul? She has served as a lawyer, a legislative aid, town board member, county clerk, a government relations specialist for a major bank, and representative of New York’s 26th congressional district who broke a 40-year Republican ride. In 2014, Cuomo selected her as his running mate in the 2014 New York gubernatorial election. It was a good choice. Kathy was popular, smart, and well-liked on both sides of the aisle. And she posed no threat to his vibrant, often brash, “bull in a china shop” approach to government. However, to be strong does not necessarily mean being quiet. Kathy has a record of picking her fights…and winning.
Born Kathleen Courtney on August 27 1958 in Buffalo, NY, she is the second of six children of a deeply religious Irish Catholic family that struggled financially during her growing up years, but not for lack of effort. Her father hit his stride to success when Kathy was in college when he began working for an information technology company, rising rapidly through the ranks to become president.
Kathy became politically active during her years at Syracuse University, in many ways the perfect liberal college, and the perfect time, for her to exercise and grow her political interests and define her agenda. She graduated in 1980 with a BA degree and received her Juris Doctor from the Catholic University Columbus School of Law in 1984.
After a brief and uninspired job at a Washington DC law firm, she took a job as a legal counsel and legislative assistant to U.S. Representative John La Falce and the colorful, vibrant U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan before seeking office herself as the Democratic Candidate to the Hamburg Town Board, in November 1994. Her political road from that point forward was full of potholes and detours, which she skirted and successfully bypassed until 2012, when she lost her reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives District 27 to Christ Collins, by a slender thread of 51- to 49-percent.
As Lieutenant Governor of New York, Kathy has honed her political and administrative skills working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, developed ways to reduce the federal budget deficit by reducing Medicaid spending without compromising block grants, and found ways of ending tax breaks for big corporations as a means of protecting small businesses. She has rallied for tax incentives to develop alternative energy, and her consistent, supportive pro-consumer position has made her popular among her constituents.
It is, perhaps, her support of the Affordable Care Act, her pro-choice position, and her support of the NRA that has put her under scrutiny. Nonetheless, her committee assignments on the Armed Services Commission, Homeland Security, Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications have prepared her to defend her state—a state that experienced and endured the cataclysmic horrors of 9/11. And, as the Afghanistan debacle continues to transpire, demands her to be alert, to utilize every bit of her experience, and to apply a spirit resolution to defend and lead, New York in the event of a crisis.
How will she deal with New Yorkers coming to terms with COVID-19 as vaccinations have stalled in many places; with a damaged public school system in which children have lost a year or more of learning; and with unemployment numbers that remain well above the national average as jobs continue to plummet are challenges few individuals are able or prepared, to undertake. The spotlight’s now on Kathy Hochul and she’s going to remain stage center: she already has voiced her decision to run next year for a four-year term after she finishes out Cuomo’s. If she can direct New York to a strong economic recovery, get public schools back on track, encourage people to get vaccinated, and lead New York forward without looking back, then she’s got a heck of a good chance. Many are hopeful.
“Hochul is more a pragmatist than an ideologue, with roots in local government,” says David Shipley, senior editor of Bloomberg. “Cities and towns are on the front lines of all the states’ major challenges, and she’d do well to listen to mayors and county executives. When they succeed, the whole state benefits—and so, too, will her political career.”
Kathy is married to William J. Hochul, Jr., a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York and the Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary to Delaware North Companies. They have two children and reside in Buffalo.
Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or Independent is no matter. When a woman works hard, stays the course, sacrifices, and achieves, we women all stand up as one and cheer her on.