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Gov. Hochul Aims to Hold Office Amid Primary Challengers

December 2, 2021 by Reece Nations
Gov. Hochul Aims to Hold Office Amid Primary Challengers
In this image from video provided by the New York Office of the Governor, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a news briefing, in New York, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. (New York Office of the Governor via AP)

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul took over for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August, and her performance so far has strengthened her case for reelection with the state’s voters.

Polling data suggests New Yorkers are generally supportive of her early work as governor, with around 50% of voters approving of her job performance, a figure that has risen six percentage points from responses gathered during her first 10 days in office, according to Morning Consult Political Intelligence tracking. Around 75% of New York Democrats approve of her handling of the office, while 9% disapprove and around one-third of respondents “strongly approve” of her work as governor.

While her primary challengers face a tall task in unseating the incumbent governor, several have stepped up to the plate as willing candidates. Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., announced in late November that he would challenge Hochul in the primary, joining Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams in the contest scheduled for June 2022.

Hochul received her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Syracuse University before earning her Juris Doctor from the Catholic University of America. Her early political career involved working as legal counsel and legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. John LaFalce, D-N.Y., and Sen. Daniel Moynihan, D-N.Y., before becoming Erie County clerk in Jan. 2007.

Hochul’s first foray into public office began in May 2011 when she ran to fill New York’s vacant 26th congressional district seat as a Democratic Party and Working Families Party nominee. The district was renumbered as the 27th congressional district for the 2012 election when she lost to Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., who held the office until his resignation in 2019 after he pleaded guilty to insider trading and lying to the FBI.

She reemerged into the political sphere in 2014 when Cuomo named Hochul as his choice for lieutenant governor for his second term, and the ticket succeeded in the gubernatorial election that year. In the 2018 Democratic primary for New York lieutenant governor, Hochul defeated then-New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams who now vies for the office of the governor.

During her tenure as lieutenant governor, Hochul was tasked with overseeing the 10 regional economic development councils as part of the administration’s economic development plan. She also chaired the Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Abuse and Addiction, and spearheaded Cuomo’s “Enough is Enough” campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses, which began in 2015.

Throughout her career, Hochul hasn’t shied away from butting heads with her own party on some issues. She opposed then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license without producing a social security card as Erie County clerk in 2007, and was critical of the North American Free Trade Agreement as a candidate for New York’s 27th congressional district in 2011.

Further, Hochul was endorsed by the National Rifle Association for joining Republicans in supporting a resolution finding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in the wake of the ATF gun-running scandal in which the bureau purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers in the hopes of tracking the weapons to Mexican drug cartel leaders. Hochul publicly boasted that she was one of two New York Democrats to receive the NRA’s support after voting for the resolution.

On Tuesday, Hochul received endorsements from five members of the New York State Assembly representing upstate districts. The endorsements came from Assembly Members Didi Barrett, Patricia Fahy, Carrie Woerner, John McDonald III and Billy Jones. 

Reece can be reached at [email protected]

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