When Andrew M. Cuomo ran for governor in 2010, he lost all nine counties in Western New York to Republican challenger Carl Paladino.
But Cuomo’s new Buffalo-based running mate confidently predicted Friday in front of a cheering crowd that November’s election outcome will be far different.
Kathleen C. Hochul, a former Western New York congresswoman, told an audience gathered at a UAW hall in Amherst that growing up in a family with four brothers made her “just a little bit competitive.”
“I don’t want to just win, folks,” she said. “We’re not just going to win back all those counties, OK? We’re going to kick butt in a way that people have never seen before.”
Cuomo said his decision to tap the former Erie County clerk as his running mate proves that his “commitment to Western New York is stronger than ever.”
“I’m going to double-down on Western New York by picking a lieutenant governor from Western New York named Kathy Hochul,” Cuomo told a roaring crowd.
In their first campaign stop as running mates, Cuomo and Hochul fired up an audience of more than 200 people that included dozens of elected officials, business leaders and union members.
The governor called Hochul a “dynamo” whose “can-do spirit” has permeated her career in public service. Cuomo later told reporters during a brief question-and-answer session that his running mate brings a “fresh perspective” to the state capital.
“She’s not an Albany insider, and that is going to be a fresh breath for Albany,” the governor said. “She brings a woman’s perspective to my operation and to the ticket, and I think that’s an advantage.”
Hochul told The Buffalo News her selection by Cuomo was unexpected. But she said she has become accustomed to surprises throughout her political career.
“I was surprised to make it to Congress. My entire life has been a series of unanticipated opportunities to serve. And that’s what I consider this,” she said.
During the rally, both Cuomo and Hochul highlighted the Buffalo Billion initiative, noting that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has been critical of the economic development strategy. Hochul said such opposition from the Republican camp is “giving us so much material to work with” in terms of building support among local voters.
Cuomo added he’s not surprised his opponent opposes the Buffalo Billion.
“I’ve had opposition to the Buffalo Billion from the moment I announced it,” he said. “You know who opposed the Buffalo Billion? Almost everybody who’s not in Buffalo.”
Cuomo said the money committed to various projects throughout Western New York as part of the initiative is recognition that the region had been “shortchanged by the state for many, many, many years.”
The governor insisted that the Buffalo Billion is not a gift, but rather an investment that will pay the state dividends for years to come.
The running mates were introduced by several prominent local Democrats.
County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said Cuomo “believes in Buffalo,” adding that the Buffalo Billion initiative has helped create jobs.
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said Cuomo is helping to steer the region’s “amazing comeback.”
“There are cranes in the air everywhere,” he said.
Brown also called Hochul a “proven leader with the unique ability to get things done.” Brown’s name was on a short list of potential running mates. Shortly before Cuomo announced his choice, Brown said he had asked the governor to remove his name from consideration.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, told the crowd that he believes Cuomo will go down in history as one of the state’s “great governors.”
Shortly before Friday’s rally began, former Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello told The News that he’s convinced Cuomo’s record in Western New York should “carry the day” and help win votes across the region. Masiello also described Hochul as a “natural vote-getter” whose tenacious demeanor will be an asset to the Cuomo administration.
Perhaps the most unique accolade bestowed on Hochul at Friday’s event came from Paul Brown, president of the Buffalo Building and Construction Trades Council, who described her as “chippy.”
“I don’t really know what chippy means, Paul Brown,” Cuomo quipped. “I don’t know that I want to know what chippy means, but this is one dynamo.”
Some dictionaries define chippy as “aggressively belligerent.” Hochul, who has enjoyed union support throughout her political career, presented a more flattering interpretation after Friday’s rally.
“It might be my enthusiasm for representing the people of this state,” she said. “I think I’m very passionate when I take on a cause. People know I won’t stop until we get the result we’re looking for. Chippy might mean ‘excited.’ ”
The Amherst rally came one day after Cuomo accepted the party’s nomination for governor and Hochul the party’s nomination for lieutenant governor at the state Democratic convention on Long Island.
Hochul is viewed by some as an important factor for Cuomo winning Western New York in his re-election bid, even after the governor spent much of the past four years emphasizing economic growth in the Buffalo region.