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Cuomo scandal: Is New York’s old boys’ club style of politics fading?

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New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has described the “aha moment” when she decided to run for politics. She saw that a young man without any apparent experience was running for the town board. “What does he have that I don’t have other than confidence?” she later told The Journal News. She entered the race and won. 

Now she could become the first female governor of New York, part of a recent wave of firsts in which women have reached the upper rungs of politics in one of the country’s largest and most influential states.

Why We Wrote This

Whether Andrew Cuomo is forced from power, the governor known for his bare-knuckle brand of politics may be among the last of the “three men in a room” version of New York state leadership.

After a report from the state attorney general this week found that Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, the Democratic governor has been repudiated by his own party. Democrats from President Joe Biden on down called for him to resign, and the state Assembly began expediting impeachment proceedings.

“There really has been a huge generational shift from the time when it was ‘three men in a room,’” says Ken Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. “The political leadership of New York has become much more reflective of the population of the state, and particularly of the Democratic Party, over the past few years.”

When Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul first found her passion for politics as a young woman in the northern reaches of New York, she didn’t necessarily see herself running for public office. 

In high school in the mid-1970s, she’d take the bus to downtown Buffalo to volunteer for the local Democratic Party headquarters – where she was often the only woman in the room. During her years at Syracuse University, she served as an intern at the New York State Assembly. Later, after graduating from law school, she served as a legal aide to an upstate U.S. congressman and then New York’s legendary U.S. senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

“I always wanted to be the brains behind other people,” she told The Journal News in 2018, when she was running for a second term as lieutenant governor on the ticket that included Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Why We Wrote This

Whether Andrew Cuomo is forced from power, the governor known for his bare-knuckle brand of politics may be among the last of the “three men in a room” version of New York state leadership.

Back then she simply lacked the confidence to run for public office, Ms. Hochul said. “It’s something that women of my generation and some of other generations still experience. I didn’t have any role models. We were just women behind the scenes making the guys look good.”

Today, however, New York’s lieutenant governor could become the first woman to hold the office of governor of New York, part of a recent wave of firsts in which women have reached the upper rungs of politics in one of the largest and most influential states in the country.





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