As demands for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign over sexual assault allegations grow, political support for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is growing. Hochul will become the state’s first female governor and the 57th overall in a poetic twist of fate.
Hochul, 62, has largely avoided the spotlight after being re-elected alongside Cuomo for his second term in office. Indeed, she was absent from his public schedules at the peak of the pandemic last spring, and his book on the COVID-19 crisis did not include her.
However, in her hometown of Buffalo on Friday, she received the vaccine alongside the president of the NAACP, in what could be seen as a counter to Cuomo’s presence at the Javits Center on Monday, flanked by Black clergy. Hochul flexed her bicep muscle like Rosie the Riveter for the cameras inside Catholic Health.
Hochul’s own press office told the media of her appearance, which is a break from tradition and a sign she’s already distancing herself from Cuomo. The governor’s office normally sends schedules for both.
Cuomo was accused of reaching under an aide’s blouse last year inside the governor’s mansion and groping her, and 59 legislators signed a letter urging him to resign. Hochul received help from the 59 legislators who signed the letter.
“We have a Lieutenant Governor who can step in and lead for the remainder of the term, and this is what is best for New Yorkers in this critical time,” they wrote.
“I trust Lt. Gov. Hochul to oversee the budget process and our attorney general to conduct a thorough investigation,” said Mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in a tweet.
In a statement calling for Cuomo to resign, Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout, who ran against Cuomo and Hochul in 2014, endorsed Hochul.
“Cuomo should resign and Kathy Hochul, who I have campaigned against and voted against in primaries … should be the Governor,” she Tweeted Friday afternoon. “He cannot be trusted. He lies, bullies and chases away talent. He has betrayed the trust of the people of New York.”
Hochul’s chances of becoming the state’s leader were also addressed by a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, who openly supported Hochul when she ran with Cuomo for the first time in 2014.
“Andrew Cuomo has multiple allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment … Kathy Hochul does not,” Bill Neidhardt said.
Hochul has confirmed that she supports Attorney General Letitia James’ independent investigation of Cuomo, but has stopped short of calling on Cuomo to resign.
Ex-Gov. Elliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal, and the potential succession would be similar. The remainder of his term was filled by then-Lt. Gov. David Paterson, a job that was admittedly a big step up from being second-in-command.
He once joked that as lieutenant governor, he had to “get up really early and dial the governor’s private line.” If he doesn’t respond, go back to sleep; your job is finished.”
Hochul first ran for office in the 1980s as a member of the Hamburg Town Council. In 2011, she was elected to Congress for the 26th District, which includes Buffalo.
Hochul met her husband, Bill, the former United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, while interning at the Assembly while attending Syracuse University.
Hochul has been a strong advocate for women’s rights, leading the state’s “Enough is Enough” movement to end sexual harassment on college campuses, and has spoken about her experience navigating testosterone-filled political waters.