With Gov. Andrew Cuomo facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment from former staffers — as well as a swirling scandal over his administration’s handling of the coronavirus in nursing homes — the spotlight has turned toward Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Under state law, Hochul, 62, would succeed Cuomo as governor should he resign or be impeached.
“Kathy is absolutely ready,” Erie County Democratic Party chairman Jeremy Zellner told The Post on Sunday.
“There’s one word that describes our lieutenant governor: tenacious,” continued Zellner, pointing to Hochul’s ability to appeal to rural and urban Democrats alike. “She’s been a bulldog from day one. She knows what needs to get done for the people of New York.”
Cuomo, 63, has denied any wrongdoing and has not given any public indication that he’s considering stepping down.
Should that change, the married mother of two would be the first woman to serve as governor in the Empire State.
Buffalo-born Hochul received her BA from Syracuse University, and a law degree from the Columbus School of Law at Washington, DC’s Catholic University.
But by the early 90s, she pivoted from law to become involved in local politics, rising in prominence over the ensuing years.
In 2003, Hochul was tapped by Erie County Clerk David Swarts as his deputy.
When Swarts resigned the position in 2007, Hochul was elected to finish out his term, and clinched re-election in 2010.
But before finishing her first full term, Hochul threw her hat in the ring during the 2011 special election to represent New York’s 26th congressional district — spanning parts of Erie and Niagara counties — in Washington.
A self-described “independent Democrat,” Hochul scored an improbable upset over Republican nominee Jane Corwin to win the seat.
But Hochul’s aisle-straddling positions and endorsements — including from the National Rifle Association — weren’t enough to put her over the top in 2012, when she narrowly lost re-election to Republican Chris Collins.
When Robert Duffy, who served as lieutenant governor during Cuomo’s first term, announced that he would not seek re-election in 2014, Cuomo gave the nod to Hochul.
But the limelight rarely found Hochul during the race, drawing accusations that Cuomo had ordered her “kept under wraps” to hide her more moderate views.
As Cuomo sought re-election in 2018, concerns again swirled that her ideals could scare off progressive voters, but they proved unfounded as Hochul and Cuomo breezed to primary wins and re-election.
Now in her second term, Hochul has remained relatively anonymous in the often thankless job, not even earning a mention in Cuomo’s memoir on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
As calls mounted, however, for an independent probe into the sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo, Hochul spoke out to echo her fellow lawmakers in the sentiment.
“Everyone deserves to have their voice heard and taken seriously,” said Hochul.