So how is Kathy Hochul doing in her new gubernatorial role? Well, she’s got a lot going for her. In the first place and most importantly, she is not Andrew Cuomo. That may be tougher than you think. After all, she was lieutenant governor (number 2) under Cuomo. She now has to assure people that she was not responsible for having pushed Cuomo out and not alienating the Cuomo supporters who are still out there.
You all know the story. Cuomo picked her for lieutenant governor and then turned on her. She stood up to him and she prevailed. Now she is serving as governor for a few short months. She says she will run for the full term. On first blush, she has handled herself competently. She has made the right moves and said the right things, but she has not shown herself to be inspirational.
She is the first woman to serve as governor of New York which in itself is very important. She comes from the Erie-Niagara region and that may be a problem in that it is usually the New York City areas that pick the big state wide Democrats. She will almost certainly have a real downstate New Yorker running against her, someone like Tish James, the uber-accomplished Attorney General who is also a woman and who is Black. James has really distinguished herself as Attorney General and could well beat Hochul in a primary.
As far as Hochul’s lack of inspirational appeal is concerned, that could end up going either way. After Papa Cuomo was defeated in what I have always thought of as a freak election, the people seemed content to elect lackluster George Pataki, a middle of the road Republican. He held the top office from 1995 to 2007. The handwriting was on the wall as the state grew bluer and bluer. The color blue comes in different shades and there is a big difference between Niagara Blue and New York City Blue.
Hochul knows very well that she is between a rock and a hard place and has chosen a Black Sate Senator, Brian Benjamin, as her lieutenant. He is both bright and accomplished and he is sure to add to Hochul’s political appeal. Nevertheless, people seldom vote for lieutenant governor so it is questionable whether Benjamin’s presence on the ticket will end up really helping her. We all now know that a lieutenant governor can end up as governor.
I expect that Tish James will contest for the top office and she will have to choose her ticket mate wisely. Since James has done so well as the AG, both statewide and in national politics, a lot of people will give her the support and respect that she deserves. If she runs, and I think she will, she will be very tough to beat. A Black woman with a tremendous number of accomplishments at the head of the thicket will certainly end up getting the majority of the Black votes.
So what does Hochul have to do to stay in the top office? She will have to demonstrate to the big city New Yorkers that she is one of them. That will be almost impossible to do simply because she isn’t. Secondly, she will have to figure out how to beat Tish James who has shown us that she is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Assuming that James runs for governor, I just don’t see how Hochul can prevail. Also, Hochul will have to convince people that she is not a Cuomo adherent. This can cut two ways and if she appears as an ingrate to the Cuomo lovers, it will cost her. After all, it really was James who brought Cuomo down and she did it in a professional and fair manner.
Nope, Hochul will have a tough time winning reelection.