NEW YORK - New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is used to being in the background. It comes with the job, especially under a boss who relishes (at least until recently) the spotlight.
"The job with Andrew Cuomo is not to be seen," political analyst Hank Scheinkopf said. "He's the king and he wants the airtime."
Now that Cuomo is facing accusations of sexual harassment and doctoring nursing home death numbers, some lawmakers are calling for him to resign or be impeached. Under the law, Hochul would be next in line for the job. It would make her the first woman in history to wield executive power in the state of New York.
The Irish Catholic lawyer and former congresswoman was born and raised in Buffalo.
"She's run tough races in upstate New York. She's from Western New York — not exactly a political nice place," Scheinkopf said. "People fight a lot up there. She's a tough cookie."
He said anyone who thinks Hochul would just be a seat holder until the next election underestimates the lieutenant governor's political experience and grit.
"What the downstate pols are hoping, 'She'll be a pushover — let's get rid of him, put her in, and we will mow her down in two years, next year,'" Scheinkopf said. "The truth is, she's not a pushover."
As lieutenant governor, in addition to acting as the governor's ambassador, she also focused on the state's economic development. That experience will come in handy should she be in the top job as New York recovers from the pandemic.
"She's as ready as any of the other politicians that are throwing their names around," Scheinkopf said.
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Hofstra University political science professor Meena Bose said the lieutenant governor is more than capable should she need to step into the job of running the state.
"Her lengthy career in local politics — working for elected, serving in elected office, working tirelessly economic development, opioid crisis, she has demonstrated effective diligent leadership," Bose said.
The lieutenant governor was notably not at many of the COVID press conferences that allowed Cuomo to rise to national prominence. Hochul's distance from his inner circle may end up helping her if she does have to take over.