Political support for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is gaining momentum as calls for Gov. Cuomo to resign over sexual-harassment allegations mount.
In a twist of poetic justice, Hochul would become the state’s first female governor and 57th overall.
Hochul, 62, has largely stayed out of the public eye since she was elected alongside Cuomo starting with his second term in office. In fact, she wasn’t mentioned at all in his public schedules last spring during the height of the pandemic, and his book on the COVID-19 crisis did not include her.
But on Friday she took center stage getting the vaccine alongside the president of the NAACP in her hometown of Buffalo, in what could be seen as a counter to Cuomo’s appearance at the Javits Center on Monday, flanked by Black clergy. Hochul posed for the cameras inside Catholic Health, flexing her bicep muscle a la Rosie the Riveter.
In a departure from tradition — and a sign she may already be distancing herself from Cuomo — the media was informed of the appearance via Hochul’s own press office. Typically, the governor’s office sends schedules for both.
The 59 legislators who issued a statement Thursday asking Cuomo to step down — following accusations that he reached under an aide’s blouse last year inside the governor’s mansion and groped her — expressed support for Hochul.
“We have a Lieutenant Governor who can step in and lead for the remainder of the term, and this is what is best for New Yorkers in this critical time,” they wrote.
Mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams echoed the sentiment in a statement: “I trust Lt. Gov. Hochul to manage the budget process and our attorney general to conduct a thorough investigation.”
Fordham Law Professor Zephyr Teachout, who ran against Cuomo and Hochul in 2014, boosted Hochul in a statement calling on Cuomo to step down.
“Cuomo should resign and Kathy Hochul, who I have campaigned against and voted against in primaries … should be the Governor,” she Tweeted Friday afternoon. “He cannot be trusted. He lies, bullies and chases away talent. He has betrayed the trust of the people of New York.”
A spokesman for Mayor de Blasio — who publicly backed Hochul when she ran with Cuomo for the first time in 2014 — also addressed the prospects of Hochul becoming the state’s leader.
“Andrew Cuomo has multiple allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment … Kathy Hochul does not,” Bill Neidhardt said.
Hochul has said she supports an independent investigation of Cuomo by state Attorney General Letitia James, but stopped short of calling for Cuomo to step aside.
The potential succession would be similar to that of ex-Gov. Elliot Spitzer’s resignation in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal. Then-Lt. Gov. David Paterson stepped in for the remainder of his term — a job that was admittedly a big leap from being second-in-command.
He once joked that the job of lieutenant governor required him “to wake up very early and call the governor’s private line. If he answers, go back to sleep, your work is done.”
Hochul was first elected to office in the 1980s as a Hamburg Town Board member. She was elected congresswoman for the 26th District, encompassing Buffalo, in 2011.
Hochul met her husband, Bill, former US Attorney for the Western District of New York, working as an intern with the Assembly while going to college at Syracuse University.
Hochul has championed women’s issues — she leads the state’s “Enough is Enough” campaign against sexual assault on college campuses — and has spoken about her familiarity with navigating testosterone-filled political waters.
“I know what it’s like to be the only woman in a room. And to have these people talking over you and thinking you don’t matter. That’s been most of my career as an elected official for over 25 years,” Hochul told NY1 in November.
“So it makes you tougher but it also makes you want to reach a hand back for the next generation of young women and engage them so they want to participate as well.”