Politics

Kathy Hochul to become New York's first female governor, replacing Andrew Cuomo after his resignation

Key Points
  • Kathy Hochul, New York's lieutenant governor, will become the first woman ever to lead the state of New York.
  • She will assume the governorship after Andrew Cuomo steps aside in two weeks amid a sexual harassment scandal.
  • Hochul has not spoken to Cuomo since February, according to a recent profile in The New York Times, and last week she called the allegations against him by 11 women "repulsive and unlawful." 

Kathy Hochul, New York's lieutenant governor, was catapulted into the national spotlight Tuesday when Gov. Andrew Cuomo abruptly announced his resignation amid a growing sexual harassment scandal.

In two weeks, Hochul will become the first woman ever to lead the state of New York, when Cuomo's resignation takes effect and she assumes the office.

Hochul, 62, is relatively unknown outside of New York political circles, and she is certainly not a household name like her predecessor.

But people who know Hochul say the former congresswoman is ready for the job. Hochul said on Tuesday that she is ready to lead New York, which is still battling the Covid pandemic and is in the midst of a fragile economic recovery.

"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," she said in a Twitter post.

VIDEO3:1503:15
N.Y. Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul lays low during calls for Cuomo resignation

"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," she said. 

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday said he spoke to Hochul and has "full confidence" that she will create a "professional and capable administration." New York's junior U.S. senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, said Hochul will be an "extraordinary governor."

"She understands the complexities and needs of our state having been both a congresswoman, and having been lieutenant governor for the last several years," Gillibrand said.

"She is ready and able and capable of being an extraordinary governor, and I look forward to supporting her and helping her as she turns towards governing our state, in a very difficult and challenging time," the senator said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that President Joe Biden has not yet spoken with Hochul but the administration looks forward to working with her. Biden is expected to speak with her "in the coming days," a senior White House official told NBC News.

Since first joining the Cuomo team in 2014, Hochul has carved out a role for herself as a sort of counterweight to Cuomo.

Where he prefers to work out of his office in New York City, Hochul has kept up a frenetic travel schedule across the state for years, sometimes making five stops a day, according to a recent profile in The New York Times. Hochul has traveled to all 62 counties in the state every year during her tenure.

Hochul and Cuomo have hardly any personal or professional relationship and she has not spoken to him since February, the Times profile said. Last week she called the allegations against him by 11 women "repulsive and unlawful." 

"Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service," Hochul said in a Twitter post. 

Hochul was no stranger to politics before she became the second lieutenant governor of Cuomo's three terms. 

She served as an aide to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and later held local positions, including on the town board in Hamburg, which is in the western part of New York, and as the clerk of Erie County, according to her campaign website. 

In 2011, Hochul was elected to Congress in a largely Republican district that spanned from Buffalo to Rochester, according to the Times profile. 

Hochul became the first Democrat to represent the district in 40 years, and her victory was viewed as a referendum on Republican plans led by Paul Ryan, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, to bankrupt Medicare, according to her campaign website.

After Hochul was defeated in her campaign for reelection to Congress in 2012, she was tapped by Cuomo to be his running mate during his first reelection campaign as governor.

Hochul has underscored several policy priorities as lieutenant governor, including the issues of gender and economic inequality.

She serves as the chair of the state's regional economic development council and the Women's Suffrage Commission and has led some of the governor's advocacy campaigns, such as the "Enough is Enough" sexual assault prevention program, according to her campaign website.