This week, Kathy Hochul was sworn in as the Governor of New York State. She assumed the position after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo for his acts and comments towards women. This turn of events may leave many New Yorkers to wonder just who is Kathy Hochul, and will her governorship be any different from Cuomo’s in terms of policy.
Hochul was elected to Congress in 2011 after a special election. She was the first Democrat in the 26th District, which covers Buffalo and Niagara Falls, in over 40 years. She only lasted that term, and the district was retaken by Republicans in 2012.
During her term in Congress, Hochul mostly voted along Democratic Party lines, which did not make much of a difference in the new Republican Majority of 2011. She voted for raising the debt ceiling and against the Republican budgets. Her record is mostly unremarkable, because that Congress was in a never-ending deadlock, with a Republican majority in the House, a Democratic majority in the Senate, and an Obama White House.
She did try to appeal to her mostly Republican district. She was one of only 17 House Democrats who voted in favor of contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General Eric Holder for his role in the Fast and Furious scandal. She voted with Republicans to strip out portions of Obamacare. She campaigned in 2012 on becoming “very conservative in my voting record.”
After her defeat in 2012, she was chosen to replace Bob Duffy on Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 re-election ticket. Duffy, who chose not to run again as Lieutenant Governor for personal and health reasons, was the former Mayor of Rochester from 2006 to 2010. Cuomo chose Hochul to keep his support in that region of the state.
As Lieutenant Governor, Hochul was seen as more of a populist than Cuomo, and she shifted to the political left. She was endorsed by the pro-abortion groups NARAL and Emily’s List. She supported the abortion legislation of 2019. She speaks at Planned Parenthood lobbying events.
She also supported Cuomo’s proposals to make statef schools, like SUNY and CUNY, tuition-free for those below a certain income level. She expressed her belief that “education is a human right.” At the same time, she opposes school-choice, advocating against school vouchers in the state.
On other issues, Hochul’s positions from the beginning of her career differ wildly from where Democrats currently stand. While in Congress, Hochul earned a top rating from the National Rifle Association. According to the Epoch Times in 2014, “Hochul has taken strong stances that [gubernatorial opponent Zephyr] Teachout said are anathema to New York Democrats.” Her stances shifted, however, when she was running with Cuomo. She called Congress’ failure to enact gun control laws a “disgrace” in 2014. When the NRA moved its corporate headquarters out of New York, she tweeted “Good Riddance!” It is unclear if she will continue Cuomo’s declared State of Emergency, a proclamation he made only six weeks ago.
That’s not the only issue that Hochul flip-flopped on. When she was Erie County Clerk in 2007, she opposed giving driver licenses to illegal aliens. As Buzzfeed reported in June 2014, “[Gubernatorial opponent Zephyr] Teachout said that in a state that typically focuses on ‘honoring the dignity of all immigrants,’ she is ‘disappointed’ in Hochul. She described Hochul as someone ‘who has not traditionally been a friend of immigrant communities.’” She did a complete 180 in 2019 when she penned an op-ed supporting the Green Light Law, which allowed illegals to get driver licenses. When asked about the change in position, she claimed that she “evolved” on the issue.
The last decade of Hochul’s career indicates that she is cut from the same cloth as New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who blows wherever the political winds take her. Hochul may not flip-flop as much as Gillibrand, but she has certainly gone along with the worst excesses of the Cuomo era (at least in terms of policy). Now that she has the top seat in the state, there is no indication that she will do anything differently than Cuomo would have if he were to stay. New York will have to wait until the 2022 election to determine if they want to take the state in a different direction.