At midnight this morning, Kathy Hochul made history when she was sworn in as the 57th Governor of New York, and the first woman to be Governor of the state. So, who exactly is the new Governor of New York State?
Kathy Hochul was born in Buffalo, New York, and began her career in politics while she was a student at Syracuse University where she led both a campaign to name the school’s stadium after former Syracuse running back Ernie Davis and a boycott of the university’s bookstore due to high prices. She also advocated for the university to divest from apartheid in South Africa. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Syracuse University, she went on to obtain a Juris Doctor from the Catholic University. After law school, Hochul began working at a law firm in Washington, D.C., but she was not satisfied by the work, and she went on to work for U.S. Representative John LaFalce, U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan, and the New York State Assembly until she decided to run for elected office.
Hochul’s first electoral campaign was for the Hamburg Town Board in the mid-nineties. She ran as a supporter of small businesses and was elected as the Democratic and Conservative candidate and served on the board until 2007, when she then became Erie County Clerk. While she was County Clerk, Hochul, along with her mother and aunt, established the Kathleen Mary House, which is a transitional home for domestic violence victims.
In 2011, Governor Hochul ran in a special election to fill New York’s 26th congressional district, which was vacated by Republican Representative Chris Lee. Running on the Democratic and Working Families lines, she ran a campaign against a heavily favored Republican candidate, New York State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin. After a contentious campaign, Hochul defeated Corwin 47% to 43%. However, she lost reelection in 2012 to Chris Collins in a close election after her district was redistricted, becoming more Republican.
During her time in Congress, Hochul sat on the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, and supported raising taxes on individuals making more than $500,000 per year, cutting taxes for low and middle-income individuals, passing the Affordable Care Act, women’s right to choose, the rights of the LGBTQ community, and offering incentives for developing alternative energy. She also received the endorsement of many women’s rights groups, including EMILY’s List.
In 2014, former Governor Andrew Cuomo picked Hochul to be his running mate after former Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy announced he would not run for reelection. Cuomo went on to win the elections in both 2015 and 2018. As Lieutenant Governor, Hochul chaired the state’s 10 regional economic development councils, the Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Abuse and Addiction, and led the “Enough is Enough” campaign, which aims to combat sexual assault on college campuses. She also supported legislation to provide drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants, an issue that she formally opposed, but has said her beliefs have since evolved.
Since Governor Cuomo announced his resignation, and that Hochul would become the next Governor of New York, Hochul has been vocal that she intends to usher in a new way of governing the state, calling the behavior described in Attorney General Leticia James’s report on Governor Cuomo “repulsive and unlawful,” and saying that “everyone who’s known me in my over 27 years of elected office knows that I have high ethical standards, and I will go in there and literally say ‘it’s a whole new day, zero tolerance,’” and, “at the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.”
Governor Hochul has said she is ready and willing to work with leaders in New York City and around the entire state, as well as rivals, both on the left and the right, and has already taken efforts to show as much. On Tuesday, August 17th, Hochul met face to face with outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We had a productive conversation today discussing issues that are important to New Yorkers, from fighting the Delta variant to getting our kids back to school safely this fall, to keeping our communities safe. We look forward to working with each other to continue New York City’s recovery and end the fight against COVID,” Hochul and de Blasio said in a joint statement. She also met with former primary rival, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who challenged her for Lieutenant Governor in 2018, to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, securing money for undocumented immigrants who did not receive federal relief payments, and expedited aid for landlords and renters around the state impacted by the pandemic. “We look forward to working together, upstate and downstate, to help New Yorkers recover from this pandemic and renew New York City,” both officials said in a statement.
Other state officials and community leaders around the state have expressed hope that Hochul will bring a welcome change to governing in New York State. New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said “I think already, you’re getting a sense of a much different tone, a much more collaborative personal style. She’s a hard worker. I think she’s prepared to manage this transition.” National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) New York Senior State Director Greg Biryla has said Governor Hochul, “has a record of collaboration, bipartisanship, and pragmatic problem-solving during her years of public service in the State Capitol, Congress, Erie County, and Hamburg Town Hall. She has long championed the importance and value of small business, and we have every expectation that will continue.”
Governor Hochul has announced multiple key staff appointments, including Karen Persichilli Keogh as Secretary to the Governor, Elizabeth Fine as Counsel to the Governor and Hazel Crampton-Hays, Press Secretary to NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, as her Press Secretary.
Karen Persichilli Keogh previously served as New York State Director and campaign manager for then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, has managed U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s transition team from the House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate, and served as a senior political adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg during his 2009 campaign. Most recently she was the Head of Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase.
Elizabeth Fine’s career began when she served as Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. She also worked at the U.S. Justice Department where she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Police and Counsel to then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, as Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton, and as counsel to the Clinton-Gore campaign. Most recently she was the Executive President and General Counsel of Empire State Development (ESD).
As of this writing, Hochul has not announced her pick for Lieutenant Governor or any department heads she intends to replace, including a new Superintendent for the Department of Financial Services to replace Linda Lacewell, whose previously announced resignation became effective today.