New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said she is “prepared” to replace Gov. Andrew Cuomo following the disgraced politician’s resignation Tuesday — as other public servants urge the incoming leader to clean house of Cuomo appointees.
“I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement.
“As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor.”
Her statement came after Cuomo announced that he would step down in 14 days amid a ballooning sexual harassment scandal and the threat of impeachment.
Hochul, 62, a self-described “independent Democrat” from Western New York will become the Empire State’s first woman governor.
It’s difficult to predict what her “agenda” will be in the governor’s seat, though some are hoping she will overhaul the administration — specifically when it comes to the MTA.
John Samuelsen, a non-voting member of the MTA board and president of the International Transportation Workers Union, called on Hochul to rid the body of Cuomo appointees, including Larry Schwartz and Linda Lacewell.
“They have been absolutely destructive to the board,” he said, calling the members part of the “Cuomo cabal.”
Rachael Fauss, a senior research analyst with watchdog group Reinvent Albany, said Hochul would have the “moral authority” to ask any Cuomo appointees to step down and to recommend new board members.
As governor, Hochul will also have to get a grip on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the recovery involving billions of dollars in federal aid.
“She’s going to have to tackle big issues — we have COVID, public safety,” Erie County Democratic chair Jeremy Zellner told the Post.
But, Zellner added, the soon-to-be governor will be “someone who can get things done with the Legislature.”
“People have a lot of confidence right now she’s stepping into the office. She’s a credible, ethical person,” he said.
A steelworker’s daughter and a lawyer, Hochul pivoted to local politics in the early 90s, rising in prominence over the ensuing years.
She served as Erie County Clerk, making headlines for her resistance to then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.
Hochul then made the jump to Washington in 2011, winning a special election to represent New York’s 26th congressional district, spanning parts of Erie and Niagara counties, in an improbable upset.
She narrowly lost a bid for reelection a year later to Republican Chris Collins, despite an endorsement by the National Rifle Association.
When Robert Duffy, who served as lieutenant governor during Cuomo’s first term, announced that he would not seek re-election in 2014, Cuomo gave the nod to Hochul, a married mother-of-two, whose husband Bill is a former federal prosecutor in Western New York.
Hochul has remained relatively anonymous in the often thankless job, not even earning a mention in Cuomo’s memoir on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Democrat moved further to the left in the role, backing the New York’s SAFE Act, one of the nation’s toughest gun control laws, as well as the Green Light Law, which let undocumented immigrants get driver’s licenses.
“Pragmatic would be a good way to describe her,” said Jacob Neiheisel, an associate political science professor at the University at Buffalo. “Someone who is pretty good at reading the tea leaves and coming around to where her constituency is.”
Both Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Democratic nominee for New York City mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday they look forward to working with Hochul.
“I look forward to working in partnership with Lieutenant Governor Hochul on the key issues affecting our city and region at this pivotal moment,” Adams said.
Hochul hasn’t said whether she would pursue a full term after finishing out Cuomo’s term, which ends in 2022.
Though she stayed silent when Cuomo’s scandal first broke late last year, Hochul spoke out to slam the “repulsive and unlawful behavior” described in the official report into Cuomo’s alleged sexual harassment of at least 11 women following its release last week.
“I believe these brave women,” Hochul wrote.
However, she also acknowledged her position in the line of succession, saying that, “Because lieutenant governors stand next in the line of succession, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the process at this moment.”
With Post wires