Quality people don’t stay down for long, and as anyone who has watched Kathleen Hochul knows, she’s quality.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday named the former congresswoman and Erie County Clerk as his running mate in this year’s election. If elected, she will succeed Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who announced that he would not seek a second term in the office.
Cuomo values loyalty, but we hope he also values a sharp mind and woman who doesn’t mind speaking it. It’s safe to assume that Hochul will be a team player for Cuomo, but also safe to assume that she will be willing to tell the boss when she thinks he’s making a mistake. He should listen, because Hochul has shown herself to be a first-rate politician with a trained ear to the ground.
As County Clerk, Hochul insisted on great customer service, and for the most part, that’s what her office delivered. She also let then-Gov. David A. Paterson know he was making a serious mistake by proposing to require New Yorkers to pay for new license plates while the Great Recession was still exerting its full grip on the country.
And she is willing to take risks. In 2011, she won a special election to succeed Rep. Chris Lee, who resigned from his 26th Congressional District seat. That office had long been held by Republicans, and powerful ones at that, including former Rep. Thomas Reynolds, who was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. At a time of general Republican weakness, Hochul won, defeating Assemblywoman Jane Corwin with 47 percent of the vote to Corwin’s 43.
By any fair assessment, she served ably for the duration of her term, building relationships that won her a high level of support in her conservative district. Republicans were concerned enough that during the subsequent redistricting, they ensured the district’s lines were redrawn to make it even more Republican. Even still, Hochul campaigned hard and lost former Erie County Executive Chris Collins by only a 51 percent to 41 percent margin. It was a remarkable run.
A strong campaigner, Hochul could benefit Cuomo this fall as he seeks to reverse the drubbing he took in Western New York when, statewide, he defeated Carl Paladino in the 2010 election.
Hochul hasn’t exactly been down as she awaited her opportunity to return to electoral politics. M&T Bank recognized her obvious talents and hired her as an executive charged with building relationships with local, state and federal officials. But politics is in her blood, and for that, Western New Yorkers can count themselves fortunate.
Assuming Cuomo wins re-election – he is leading in the polls – Hochul’s return is likely to further benefit Western New York. And while lieutenant governors haven’t gone on to further political glory lately, it would be unwise to bet against Hochul breaking that mold, too.