Incoming New York governor Kathy Hochul is far from a household name, even in New York, where she has served as lieutenant governor since 2015. Suddenly thrust into the local and national spotlight with Andrew Cuomo’s impending resignation, Hochul is promising a very different approach from her predecessor. From her press conference on Wednesday and an interview on Today, we learned a few things about how she’ll conduct business at the Governor’s Mansion.
She’s running in 2022
Hochul will serve until at least December 2022, when Cuomo’s third term runs out. And in an interview with Today’s Savannah Guthrie, she said she will seek a full term of her own. “I’m going to ask the voters at some point for their faith in me again,” she said. Many Democratic contenders are eyeing the 2022 primary, and some would make formidable contenders — central among them Attorney General Letitia James, whose report on Cuomo cemented his downfall. But Hochul, who is known for traveling all corners of the state and appears to be well liked among those familiar with her, will have the advantage of incumbency, which is no small thing.
She supports mask mandates in schools
As the Delta variant surges across the country, New York, like everywhere else, is seeing an uptick in COVID cases. But Governor Cuomo has left the decision of whether to mandate masks for children returning to school up to local leaders. Hochul said that she is in favor of a statewide edict. “I believe that there will end up being mask mandates. I just don’t have the authority to do so at this point,” she said on Today. She said she would meet with the state health commissioner to discuss next steps on the issue. Mask mandates in schools have become a political flash point in other states like Florida and Texas.
She’s promising a new culture
Hochul told Guthrie that anyone who had been identified in the attorney general’s report as committing unethical behavior would be “gone on day one.” She also said, “I’m not going to put up with anything that crosses the line or even comes close to the line.” She emphasized that she had not been involved, or even known about, Cuomo’s behavior. At Wednesday’s press conference, she delivered a similar message. “I think it’s very clear that the governor and I have not been close, physically or otherwise, in terms of much time,” she said. She also previewed a very different tone from Cuomo, who is known for his imperiousness. “People will soon learn that my style is to listen first, then take decisive action,” she said.
She is steering clear of talking about Cuomo’s future
At Wednesday’s press conference, Hochul dodged a question about whether she might pardon her predecessor in the future, saying, “It’s far too premature to have those conversations.” And on Today, she dodged another one about how the State Assembly should proceed on the matter of whether Cuomo should be impeached even after leaving office, which could prevent him from running again in the future. She called the issue a distraction and a matter strictly for the State Legislature. “I don’t have a voice in this,” she said.