State legislators weigh in on new governor, Kathy Hochul

State legislators weigh in on new governor, Kathy Hochul

Kathy Hochul visited Stony Brook University’s Center of Molecular Medicine to discuss energy efficiency improvements in 2019. File photo by David Luces

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced his resignation last week, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) began to draw up plans to take over the role. Her first day in the governor’s chair will be Aug. 24.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul poses for a portrait and headshot in her office at the state Senate. Photo from Hochul’s office

She was selected by Cuomo as his running mate as lieutenant governor in the 2014 New York gubernatorial election. Hochul, who began her career as an attorney, had served as a member of the Hamburg Town Board from 1994 to 2007, Erie County clerk from 2007 to 2011 and was congresswoman in the state’s 26th District from 2011 to 2013.

State senators and assemblymen in Suffolk County filled in TBR News Media on what they know about the first female governor.

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) in an email described her as “competent, experienced and absolutely ready to lead New York State forward.” Freshman senator, Mario Mattera (R-St. James), wrote in an email that he only had the opportunity to meet her briefly in the past but found her to be “cordial and approachable.”

State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said in a phone interview he has met her a few times and said she is a nice person who he believes is capable of doing the job ahead of her. Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) described her as a hard worker who is warm and open to learning about what people think. He said in a phone interview that while he has never had any policy interaction with her, he has met her.

Both assemblymen said that Cuomo kept Hochul on the outside during his tenure. Despite the soon-to-be former governor not providing her with opportunities to demonstrate what she’s capable of, Englebright said he believes she has always known to be prepared to take on the position because she knew it was one of her responsibilities.

Gaughran and Englebright commended Hochul on getting out into the state to familiarize herself with constituents’ issues. Gaughran said he was confident that New Yorkers would like her.

“She has spent the past few years as lieutenant governor traveling the state and has tremendous knowledge about Long Island’s needs,” Gaughran wrote. “She has experience at every level of government — from local to state to federal — and will be able on day one to continue leading New York through the pandemic and the challenges posed by the Delta variant, as well as heal New York from this dark moment in history.”

Englebright echoed the sentiments.

“She knows New York and has traveled to every county in the state as basically an envoy of the executive chamber of goodwill,” Englebright said, adding her good listening skills she demonstrated during these trips will be an asset in the role.

Fitzpatrick said he believes Hochul has a hard time ahead though.

“I think Governor Hochul not only has a tough job, but I think she has a very difficult path to the nomination,” he said.

He added she will need to satisfy those who are progressives in the Democratic Party while also pleasing moderates.

“She’s in a difficult position,” he said.

Mattera agreed.

“She has a lot of work to do to overcome the issues that derailed the Cuomo administration, and I am sure the residents of New York will be keeping a keen eye on how she handles the last portion of Governor Cuomo’s term,” he said.

Englebright agreed she will be tested.

“But this is not her first rodeo,” he said. “She’s experienced so I think the state will be in good hands.”

Gaughran and Englebright, who both believe she has a good chance of winning in 2022, said if they were to give her advice they would tell her how important it is to have a good and cooperative relationship with the state Legislature. Something they felt Cuomo didn’t have. Mattera echoed the sentiment.

“There is a wealth of knowledge in the Senate and Assembly members since they closely represent those they serve in their respective districts,” Mattera said. “That can help our state move forward following this year’s crisis and the ongoing controversy surrounding Governor Cuomo and his administration.”