Her playbook is the exact opposite of Andrew Cuomo’s. Can she deliver a win for New York?
As soon-to-be Governor of New York, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul already has her work cut out for her.
Hochul, and her modest staff, are preparing even now to take office when current Governor Andrew Cuomo officially steps down, as he has promised to do on August 24.
As has been true throughout most of her career in public service, she is already well ahead of the game. Never one to wait to see how the wind is blowing before responding to questions of moral and civic duty, Kathy Hochul didn't wait for Andrew Cuomo’s surprise resignation last week to begin preparing to take over.
And it’s a good thing for all New Yorkers, from the Catskills to Manhattan, that she didn’t.
Months ago, while Andrew Cuomo was still assuring everyone that the New York AG’s investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct would exonerate him- and the mainstream media was buying it- Hochul began immediately preparing for a much different outcome.
The Lieutenant Governor is next in line, should the Governor be unable to serve out his term for whatever reason. By all accounts, Hochul started preparing for Andrew Cuomo’s worst case scenario the moment the AG’s independent investigation, which she applauded, was launched.
That head start means her transition is more likely to be seamless- even more important given the circumstances under which she is taking office.
From a resurgence of COVID-19, to the sharply rising rates of violent crime in New York City, to a massive inflationary spike putting a financial hurt on New Yorkers who can least afford it; the new Governor has just as many problems as the old one.
Including all the ones Andrew Cuomo created.
Questions, and serious ones, remain about Governor Cuomo’s disastrous nursing home policy and the extent to which his administration concealed the true number of nursing home deaths for political purposes.
The fact that this accusation has been supported by another recently released AG report, and corroborated by one of his top aides- who was caught on tape admitting it- doesn’t bode at all well for the Cuomo Administration.
The AG found that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his staff, to avoid criticism from the opposition party, underreported nursing home deaths in New York by a whopping 50%. On the heels of these two damning AG reports, some members of Cuomo’s Administration are still likely to face consequences, legal or political, for their role in the governor’s malfeasance.
Hochul is also stepping into the position already at odds with New York progressives, and she hasn’t even assumed office yet. She objected to drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants during the Spitzer Administration; she once received a glowing endorsement from the NRA; her husband’s job with a large gambling concern is a conflict of interest: Progressives have a laundry list of bones to pick with Kathy Hochul.
Everyone from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to former New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (yes, really) is being floated to replace Hochul during the upcoming primary, where she is certain to draw a number of challengers from left, right and center.
Then, of course, there is the looming general election to contend with. Republicans haven’t won New York’s governorship for a comfortably long while and yet…Governor Gavin Newsom is in deep trouble in deep-blue California.
Facing a recall- and gradually diminishing odds of surviving it (if polls are to be believed)- Newsom is currently in the process of being rescued by President Joe Biden, if indeed he can be rescued.
That California’s once-popular Democratic Governor, who won his seat easily with over 60% of the vote only a few short years ago, needs rescuing should be giving New York Democrats a long pause.
As should the fact that Eric Adams, a former police officer and conservative Democrat running on a tough-on-crime platform, won the recent Democratic Party primary for New York Mayor.
Two moderate Democrats like Hochul and Adams could be just what the blighted state of New York needs to dig out from COVID-19, rising crime, and a financial crisis.
New York’s newest governor is also inheriting a crisis of credibility in the mainstream press and record low trust in public officials and institutions- a situation not improved by the fate of her successor.
The New York Times acknowledges that Cuomo has a, “long and deserved reputation for governing by brute force and fear, alienating countless people through his tactics of bullying and intimidation,” but makes no mention of the fact that the Times allowed this toxic workplace open-secret to remain free of journalistic attention for a whole decade.
Then there are the optics of New York Democrats failing to pursue the impeachment they promised because Cuomo has resigned.
Though Cuomo has preemptively resigned from office, an impeachment proceeding against him would be anything but moot. The purpose of such an action at this point would be to bar Andrew Cuomo from running again.
New York Democrats in the assembly have little appetite to drag a fellow Democrat through the mud, but they might do well to consider it anyway.
Kathy Hochul knew it was time to make a clean break from Andrew Cuomo the moment the AG’s investigation was announced back in February. She risked- and bore- the full wrath of her powerful boss by issuing a statement unequivocally supporting the women who came forward to accuse him- five long months before the AG’s report vindicated them.
More importantly, she actually backed-up that public statement of support with the action of preparing to take over for Andrew Cuomo.
“I believe these women,” Hochul said at the time. And because she believed them- really believed them- she’s been preparing to take over the governorship ever since. Now, while others are scrambling to play catch-up and reposition themselves, Kathy Hochul is exactly where she needs to be, and where the voters of New York need her.
Just when they need her most.
She managed to do this by being more focused on doing the right thing than political expediency, which put her way ahead of the curve.
Isn’t it time other prominent New York Democrats caught up?
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)