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If tapped to succeed Andrew Cuomo, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul would become New York state’s first woman governor. (Credit: KC Kratt, Wikimedia Commons)

We’re as sick of this story as you are — the tale of the veteran male politician embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal.

This time, though, there are consequences for those actions.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo officially announced his resignation from office, following the release of a shocking report by New York attorney general Letitia James that shed light on the toxic work environment in his office. It was one rife with inappropriate behavior, and in all, 11 women testified about the unwelcome touches and sexual comments they endured while working there.

“We also conclude that the Executive Chamber’s culture — one filled with fear and intimidation, while at the same time normalizing the Governor’s frequent flirtations and gender-based comments — contributed to the conditions that allowed the sexual harassment to occur and persist,” the report additionally stated.

His initial response — a televised statement including a frankly baffling slideshow of images featuring the governor touching and kissing other people — certainly didn’t help matters. The calls for his resignation piled up — and now, he will be out of office before the end of August.

When he departs, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul will step into the role. She had commented on the report’s findings, calling Cuomo’s behavior “repulsive and unlawful,” and asserting that “sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service.” As the next person in line for his job, she declined to comment further. 

While watching these events play out, we (like many) have found ourselves wondering — who is she, anyway? Who is the person who will be leading New York through the next chapter of the pandemic? After all, she’ll retain the position until the end of Cuomo’s term in January 2023. She also, notably, will be the first woman to ever assume the role.

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For starter’s she’s a 62-year-old lawyer with a lengthy legal and political career. She’s also a lifelong New York resident. Born and raised in Buffalo, Hochul earned her bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. She then earned her law degree from Washington D.C.’s Catholic University, before returning to New York to work as an attorney and legislative aide for several years. After taking a spot on Hamburg, New York’s town board, she then became Erie County’s clerk from 2007 to 2011. 

That year, she became a U.S. representative for New York’s 26th district, a role she won in a special election and held until 2013. She was the first Democrat to hold the position in several decades, and used her time in the office to try streamlining passport acquisitions — though on that front, she has received criticism for her earlier lack of support for immigrant driver’s licenses, a position she later walked back — and to push for ending tax breaks for oil companies. She also supported reductions in Medicaid spending, and received backing from the National Rifle Association.

In 2014, Cuomo named her as his choice for Lt. Governor. They won that year’s election, and she’s held the role ever since, largely serving as his proxy while meeting with business owners, community leaders and elected officials across the state. She chairs 10 economic development councils, as well as Cuomo’s Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Abuse and Addiction and the Enough is Enough campaign against sexual assault on college campuses.

Outside of office, she works with a transitional home for victims of domestic violence.

In short, Hochul is a career politician with a solid, if slightly uneven, track record.

She has yet to say what she will do with the power she’ll wield once she becomes governor. But her work and words against sexual harassment and assault lead us to believe that, at the very least, her employees will feel more at ease working in an office run by her.

[Note: This post was updated after initial publication, following Cuomo’s resignation from office.]

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Chelsea Austin
She’s Helping Others To Define Their Self-Worth

Chelsea Austin is a life coach, podcaster and writer motivating others to live their true and fulfilling lives.

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