Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native and Syracuse University graduate, was sworn in as New York’s first female governor Tuesday.
Hochul served in Congress from 2011 to 2013 and as the state’s lieutenant governor from 2015 to 2021. She became governor this week after disgraced Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in the wake of sexual harassment allegations and a looming impeachment trial.
Hochul, 62, was born and raised in the Queen City. The second of six children, Hochul and her family lived in a 31-by-8 foot trailer outside the Bethlehem Steel Plant near Buffalo. Her grandparents fled poverty in Ireland, spending time in South Dakota and Chicago before settling in Buffalo.
Considered a rising star in the state’s Democratic Party, Hochul earned her bachelor’s degree from SU, where she led a boycott against the campus bookstore, petitioned to rename the football stadium after former football star and leukemia victim Ernie Davis and lobbied the university to divest from South Africa.
Hochul’s husband, William J. Hochul Jr., is a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York and was also born in Buffalo. He is an adjunct professor of corporate crisis management at the UB School of Law, according to his LinkedIn page.
Hochul has served as chair of the Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Abuse and Addiction and as chair of the state’s 10 regional economic development councils. She supported a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free SUNY and CUNY schools for eligible families, paid family leave and the “Enough is Enough” sexual assault prevention program as lieutenant governor.
Hochul spoke about the importance of gender equality and representation at UB in 2019. During her speech, she shouted-out UB women’s basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack: “She speaks beyond just her experience as a coach, she speaks about life.” Hochul also spoke at the grand opening of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ downtown campus.
“I know she could easily step into the role of governor and it’s easy to say if that did happen I know we’d have a friend in Albany,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said about Hochul prior to Cuomo’s resignation announcement.
Poloncarz previously worked with Hochul when he was the county comptroller and she was the county clerk.
Hochul has said she will run for reelection in 2022.
Dan Eastman is the assistant managing editor and can be reached at email@example.com