To the surprise of many, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has finally succumbed to calls for his resignation, and is set to leave office on Aug. 24. Despite bipartisan disgust over his alleged behavior, Cuomo maintained his innocence even as he announced his decision to step down. Kathy Hochul will take the reins in Albany once the embattled governor vacates. Hochul will become the second lieutenant governor in recent years to ascend to the office: former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer (D) resigned in 2008. Cuomo’s delayed departure means Hochul will remain in office only until the end of 2022.
Unlike those in the Cuomo political dynasty spawned by Andrew’s father, Mario, Hochul comes from humble roots, having grown up in a working-class household in Buffalo, NY. Like the governor, she studied law and moved on to administrative work in Congress and the New York State Assembly before fleshing out her resume in local politics. Viewed as a moderate Democrat, Hochul first gained significant attention for her political views in 2007 when she opposed Spitzer’s proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses without proper identification or Social Security cards.
Using her political momentum, Hochul decided to run for the House in New York’s special election for the 26th congressional district in 2011. After edging out a win in a district notable for more than 40 years of Republican representation, Hochul even secured the NRA’s endorsement in the 2012 congressional election over her Republican rival, future Trump insider Chris Collins. Hochul’s continued support of the Second Amendment and opposition to former Attorney General Eric Holder’s gun-walking policy have led to questions regarding her political viability in an increasingly progressive Democratic Party.
Though the lieutenant governor has a reputation for being moderate, several concerns remain about whether she plans to continue on that trajectory. In 2018, for example, she renounced her opposition to granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. When asked to clarify the change of heart, she claimed she was acting according to the wishes of the constituents in her district, the most Republican in the state and the Northeast. Hochul will undoubtedly have to answer questions in the coming weeks regarding her stance on various issues, especially gun control.
In the past, Hochul voiced her opposition to free trade agreements like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), arguing that they overwhelmingly benefit big businesses and hurt small businesses. She also has worked on issues of substance abuse, focusing on the opioid crisis. However, her background lacks the glamour and cosmopolitan image crafted by the Cuomo dynasty. With New York City’s mayoral primary choosing Eric Adams, a Democrat firmly opposed to the radical ideas from the progressive wing of his party, Hochul will certainly be a welcome addition to the moderate faction despite her limited years in office. Already, progressives on social media are urging caution, claiming that her representation of “Trump country” in Congress might make her an enemy of the progressive movement that continues to see one electoral defeat after another nationwide.