- Lawmakers are increasingly calling for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to take the helm while investigations look into allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
- Hochul has refrained from addressing the allegations at events in recent weeks, only releasing two statements.
- Multiple Democratic allies and lawmakers have expressed confidence in Hochul to step into the governor role if need be.
ALBANY, N.Y. – Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul appeared upbeat but brisk Thursday on a Zoom call with the North Country Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism as she discussed the developments the state had planned for the region.
Following her presentation and words from a local official, Hochul rapidly exited the call, taking no questions from the several reporters present at the meeting.
She appeared at a slate of other events Thursday and Friday, some in person and some by recording, including her public COVID-19 vaccination on Friday morning.
Absent from her appearances was the biggest elephant in the room: The political crisis that’s engulfing Albany as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, her boss, fights the waves of sexual harassment allegations that have come to light in recent weeks.
After six women have accused him of sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior, Cuomo, a Democrat, said Friday that he has no intention of stepping down. He instead defiantly accused the politicians calling for his resignation of being “reckless” and “bowing to cancel culture.”
But for Hochul, she has tried to keep it business as usual. Her days are usually packed with events, now more online than in person due to the pandemic.
And she’s said little about the Cuomo crisis, other than that there should be a thorough investigation.
But the former congresswoman from Buffalo could play a much larger role: She might be governor if Cuomo ultimately cedes to the calls from just about every major Democrat in the state to resign.
Pressure to step down:59 state lawmakers call for Cuomo to resign as Assembly launches probe
Cuomo unwilling to resign:Andrew Cuomo remains defiant, won’t resign despite call from House Democrats
Pushing Hochul to lead
The contingent of lawmakers pushing him to leave has grown in the past few days alone, with 59 Democratic lawmakers in the legislature calling for his resignation Thursday.
That grew on Friday: almost all of New York’s 19 Democratic members of the U.S. House called on him to resign, as did both of the state’s senators, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
And several of them are asking Cuomo, if nothing else, to step aside and hand the reins to the 62-year-old Hochul while multiple investigations are underway into Cuomo’s conduct.
“For the good of the State of New York and those New Yorkers we collectively serve, he should step aside and let our well-respected Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul step in while these investigations are underway,” said Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, in a statement Thursday.
Others brought up the importance of leadership stability in the midst of turmoil.
“These are serious allegations and the people of New York State need steady leadership without distraction,” said Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald.
“Since the Governor has said that he will not resign, I believe it is in the best interest of our State if Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul serves as Acting Governor until the Attorney General’s investigations or any other potential inquiries reach a conclusion or a removal determination under the law is made.”
Meanwhile, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the passage of the state budget cannot be ignored, and given the allegations, Cuomo is “unable to govern effectively at this time,” read a statement from five western New York lawmakers on Friday.
“The New York state Constitution allows for the governor to temporarily step aside and for the lieutenant governor to serve as acting governor,” the statement continued.
“We have the greatest confidence in Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and know that she will be able to effectively govern the state of New York as we continue the work to pass a state budget and address the pandemic.”
Who is Kathy Hochul?:What to know about Cuomo’s lieutenant governor
Hochul herself has remained relatively silent on the matter, only releasing two statements that asked for patience from the public while waiting for a review or investigation to run its course.
“Everyone deserves to have their voice heard and taken seriously. I support an independent review,” said Hochul in a statement on Feb. 27, several days after the first allegations against Cuomo were made public.
Ten days later, she spoke again on the independent investigation through the Attorney General’s Office, led by attorneys Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark.
“I am confident everyone’s voice will be heard and taken seriously,” Hochul repeated in a second statement. “I trust the inquiry to be completed as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible. New Yorkers should be confident that through this process they will soon learn the facts.”
The State Assembly announced Thursday that it was opening its own separate impeachment investigation.
More:New York Assembly launches impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Is she ready?
Hochul’s experience in all tiers of local and state politics in New York gives her a unique readiness to step into a role as governor, should Gov. Cuomo resign or be asked to leave, said Jeremy Zellner, Eric County Democratic Committee Chairman.
“There’s no question that Kathy Hochul could do the job of governor on day one,” said Zellner. “Kathy is an incredibly down-to-earth person … and she doesn’t back down from challenges.”
Hochul started her political career in Erie County, as a town board member in Hamburg and later as Erie County clerk. She was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2011 and won election as lieutenant governor after being picked as Cuomo’s running mate in 2014, beating Jumaane Williams, then a New York City councilman, in a primary in 2018.
She replaced Robert Duffy, the former Rochester mayor, who was lieutenant governor, during Cuomo’s first term.
Hochul won her congressional seat in a competitive district in Erie and Niagara counties, and she did it with her connection to the public, and empathy for the challenges they face, Zellner said.
“She’s an incredibly tough elected official,” he said. “She has built coalitions around the state.”
And if she takes the helm as governor in the coming days or weeks, he believes it’ll be a smooth transition.
“If there’s one word to describe her, it’s ‘tenacious,'” he said.
“She will not be taken by surprise here. I’m sure that she’s working hard with her team to be prepared for anything that could happen over the next weeks and months.”
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