New York is about to get a new governor — and its first female governor, to boot.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo steps down at 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, in the wake of a state attorney general’s investigation that found he sexually harassed 11 women. While Cuomo has repeatedly denied the accusations, he said that he is resigning in the best interest of the state. “Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government,” Cuomo said.
And that means that lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul will take his place on Tuesday, making history as the first woman to serve as the Empire State’s governor.
“I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down,” Hochul, 62, said in a statement, which she also tweeted. “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.”
Hochul will serve the remainder of Cuomo’s term through next year, and she announced earlier this month that she plans to run for New York governor in 2022.
For those unfamiliar with Cuomo’s replacement, here’s five things to know about Hochul.
She’s a born and raised New Yorker
Hochul was born in Buffalo, N.Y., according to her official biography, where she was raised by a blue-collar, Irish Catholic family. She spent about 18 years working in local state politics, such as serving as a Hamburg town council member for 14 years before working almost four years as an Erie County clerk. She has also made it a point to visit all 62 New York counties every year.
She’s got a legal background
Hochul earned a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University in 1980, and a Juris Doctor degree (JD) from Catholic University. She then worked in a private Washington D.C. firm, before serving as legal counsel and legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. John LaFalce and U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
She made headlines by flipping a Republican congressional seat in 2011
Hochul, who identifies as a progressive Democrat, gained national attention after winning a U.S. House special election for New York’s 26th District. Coincidentally, this position also opened up over a scandal: the incumbent, married Republican Rep. Chris Lee, resigned over reports that he had tried to find a date on Craigslist. Her campaign site called her electoral victory “a national referendum on Paul Ryan’s agenda to bankrupt Social Security and Medicare” following the 2011 Tea Party wave. She sat on the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees during her tenure, but was later defeated by Republican Chris Collins in the 2012 election
She joined Cuomo’s team in 2014 — but they don’t appear to be close
Hochul was elected with Cuomo in 2014, becoming New York’s 77th lieutenant governor. Her current position sees her serving as president of the New York State Senate, as well as chairing the Regional Economic Development Councils.
But the New York Times reports that she has been “cut off” from Cuomo’s inner circle, and that she has not spoken with the outgoing governor since February. What’s more, Hochul was not one of the aides regularly seen standing next to Cuomo during his daily coronavirus news briefings last year, and she was also left out of Cuomo’s recent book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19.”
Still, Cuomo praised her during his resignation announcement. “Kathy Hochul, my lieutenant governor, is smart and competent,” he said. “This transition must be seamless. We have a lot going on. I’m very worried about the delta variant, and so should you be, but she can come up to speed quickly.”
She was also endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Schumer said Hochul will establish a “professional and capable administration,” and Gillibrand added, “She understands the complexities and needs of our state having been both a congresswoman, and having been lieutenant governor for the last several years.”
She’s run on a progressive platform that focuses on working families and women’s empowerment
Hochul’s official biography credits her parents for her passion about working class Americans. Her father was a steelworker and union organizer, and her grandparents were immigrants leaving poverty in Ireland. She established a transitional home for domestic violence victims called the Kathleen Mary House in 2006, and chairs the Women’s Suffrage Commission. She also supported the fight for a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave in New York, as well as for banning salary history in job interviews. Yet she also previously opposed driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, although she has since changed her position to support them. She is married with two children.