Who is Kathy Hochul? Syracuse University alumna to become NY’s first female governor

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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be the first woman to serve as New York state’s governor when Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns later this month.

Cuomo announced Tuesday that he’ll be stepping down as governor effective in two weeks after a report released by New York State Attorney General Letitia James concluded that he sexually harassed 11 women.

Hochul, a 62-year-old Buffalo native and Syracuse University alumna, will replace Cuomo, serving out the remainder of his term in office. She reportedly began speaking with advisors last week about recommendations for potential first steps in office, who to hire for key jobs, and which Cuomo appointees she may want to keep.

“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. 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 in a statement Tuesday.

If Hochul wants a four-year term of her own, she can run for governor in the 2022 gubernatorial election.

Hochul (pronounced HOH-KUHL, rhymes with “local”) has been Cuomo’s lieutenant governor since his previous running mate, former Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, decided not to seek reelection in 2014. She is a former U.S. representative and Erie County clerk who has made a name for herself visiting each of New York’s 62 counties every year, according to the New York Times. In one week in September 2019, she made appearances in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Niagara Falls Lockport, Pendleton, Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton and Cortland.

She was born in Buffalo in 1958. At the time, her father worked nights at the Bethlehem Steel Plant in Buffalo and went to college during the day. He later became president of an information technology company. Her mother stayed home to raise Hochul and her five siblings, according to The New York Times.

She developed an interest in politics in high school after a field trip to Buffalo City Hall and graduated from SU in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

While at SU, she threw herself into campus causes. She helped lead a boycott of the campus bookstore over high prices it was charging, the Times said. And she tried to persuade the school to change the name of the Carrier Dome to honor SU football legend Ernie Davis.

Though she was unsuccessful, the school did name the field itself after Davis in 2009.

After SU, Hochul earned a law degree from Catholic University in Washington. She served in the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013 and was Erie County clerk from 2007 to 2011.

Hochul was also a member of the Hamburg Town Board and worked as group vice president for strategic relationships at Buffalo-based M&T Bank.

She has been noted for her moderate views. She was even endorsed by the National Rifle Association while running for reelection to the House, although she ultimately lost to Republican Chris Collins.

As lieutenant governor, Hochul has served as a frequent surrogate for Cuomo. Her daily scheduled is often packed with events, media hits and appearances across New York.

She chairs several statewide initiatives, including Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils and the state Heroin and Opioid Abuse Task Force.

Kathy Hochul’s political roots in Syracuse: protests, Ernie Davis and a fight over the dome

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