New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY), the second in the line of succession for the state’s executive branch, has reportedly been seeking advice on what to do in her first days in office if Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) were to resign.
The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter, reports that Hochul was telling people in phone calls that she could end up leading the New York government in mere weeks. These purported phone calls included her seeking advice on which officials from the governor’s office she should retain and who she should hire.
State Senator Timothy Kennedy, who has known Hochul for decades, told The New York Times that he recently spoke with her and that she is “in the process of preparing to assume the governor’s seat.”
Cuomo has refused to resign, saying in a press conference that he has “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.” Top Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and President Joe Biden, have called on Cuomo to step down from office in light of the attorney general’s report, which concluded that Cuomo “engaged in conduct constituting sexual harassment” under state and federal law.
Hochul, 62, has served as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor for two of his three terms, but she is still relatively unknown, even within New York. According to the New York Post, Cuomo’s pandemic leadership memoir didn’t mention Hochul a single time, although the book did mention members of his inner circle, including his aide Melissa DeRosa.
A number of state Democratic lawmakers have pushed for Cuomo to be impeached in the aftermath of the state attorney general’s report. If Cuomo were impeached, Hochul would become the acting governor during the Senate trial.
Hochul condemned Cuomo’s alleged behavior last week, calling it “repulsive and unlawful,” but declined to comment further on the Cuomo report, citing her place in the line of succession.
No one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps.
Because Lieutenant Governors stand next in the line of succession, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the process at this moment. 2/2
— Kathy Hochul (@LtGovHochulNY) August 3, 2021
In the past, Hochul has described herself as an “independent Democrat,” and has taken stances atypical of her party.
Before she became lieutenant governor, she served in Congress, opposed drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, and had an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. Chris Cox, the former chairman of the NRA’s political action fund, said when Hochul was running for Congress in 2012 that she had a “proven record of defending the Second Amendment.”
However, Hochul later endorsed the New York SAFE Act, a stringent gun-control law that established a broad definition of “assault weapons” and banned their sale in the state. She also reversed her stance on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, arguing in a 2019 op-ed that doing so would make New York a safer place to live for everyone.
Nathan Gay contributed to this report.