By Janie Mackenzie
Earlier today, following a lengthy investigation, the New York state attorney general’s office issued their findings after almost a dozen women came forward and alleged that current Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) sexually harassed them. According the NBC News,
“The investigation found that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, nine of whom are current and former state employees — and one of whom is a New York State trooper.”
Upon the release of the report, New York Attorney General Letitia James told reporters, “None of them welcomed it and all of them found it uncomfortable.”
Additionally, the report also concluded that the governor and his team retaliated against a former employee for coming forward with her story, creating a toxic and hostile work environment.
At the time of this writing, Governor Cuomo has stated that he is unwilling to resign, but the pressure may be mounting now that prominent Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have called for his resignation, while local officials are exploring options for impeachment.
Should Cuomo choose the right path forward for both his victims and the party, who would be set to take his place?
According to the New York state constitution, should the governor pass away, be impeached or resign the post, the lieutenant governor shall take over until the time of the next election (November 2022 in this instance). Current lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, may be the exact person the state needs to face this current crisis.
But who exactly is Kathy Hochul?
Quickly distancing herself from Cuomo, Hochul issued a statement shortly after the release of the state attorney general’s findings in which she referred to Cuomo’s actions as “repulsive,” and called for his immediate resignation.
Hochul continued, “Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service. The attorney general’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior by the governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward.”
The 62 year-old Buffalo native is considered by many to be a moderate Democrat, known for her hyperlocal campaign strategy and ability to connect with voters on a personal level. Hochul served as U.S. Representative for New York’s 26th Congressional District between June 2011 and January 2013 after coming out victorious in a four-candidate special election to fill the seat left vacant by Representative Chris Lee’s (R) resignation. Holchul was the first Democrat to represent the 26th Congressional District in 40 years.
Previously, Hochul served as the County Clerk of Erie County, New York, deputy county clerk, member of the Hamburg Town Board, practicing attorney and legislative aide. Huchul began her term as Lt. Governor in 2014, after running victorious alongside current Governor Cuomo. In 2018, Hochul fought off a primary challenge from Jumaane Williams, a far more progressive candidate.
Maybe most importantly given the current scandal, is Hochul’s experience and advocacy work with victims of domestic abuse. In a 2014 interview, given as she traveled from Albany to Syracuse to promote the Women’s Equality Agenda, Hochul explained how domestic violence played a role in her life:
“My mother saw her mother … her father walked out when they were very young and it was a lot of, I’d say more verbal abuse than physical, but it was the same, and my mother, back in the 70s, became an advocate for victims of domestic violence way before anybody in the Legislature was talking about it.”
Hochul has been outspoken on the issue since long prior to joining the Cuomo/Hochul ticket, as she is a founder and member of the Board of Directors for the Kathleen Mary House, which “provides transitional living for domestic abuse victims and their children,” as well as offering “advocacy and case management services…to residents.”
At a time when the New York government is facing its own #MeToo reckoning, Hochul may be exactly what New York needs to exterminate the toxic culture cultivated by her predecessor, and bring an equal and safe working environment for every employee to the Executive Mansion.
About Janie Mackenzie
Janie Mackenzie is a political writer, strategist and media specialist, as well as the former online media manager for a national Senate campaign. She currently serves as the Director of PR and Publicity for Esquire Digital.