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Who Is New York’s First Woman Governor, Kathy Hochul?

New York lieutenant governor Kathy Hochul’s first day as New York governor begins at midnight on Tuesday, August 24, but she spent the weekend stepping into the role: On Saturday, Hochul was on Long Island surveying storm prep in advance of Tropical Storm Henri.

Following outgoing-governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, Hochul will become New York’s first woman governor. “As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor,” Hochul tweeted after Cuomo’s resignation announcement. So what should you know about soon-to-be New York governor Kathy Hochul?

She’s Worked in All Levels of Government

Hochul, a native of Buffalo, got her start in politics as a high schooler, volunteering for the local Democratic party as, she says, the youngest and only female person in the room. As a political science student at Syracuse, she interned in the State Assembly; then after going to law school, she served as a congressional aide for New York federal politicians. Later she served for 14 years on her local town board, then at the county level as a deputy clerk and county clerk.

In 2011, Hochul became the first Democrat to represent New York’s 26th Congressional District in 40 years in a special election. She lost the seat the following year. In 2014, after a brief stint working outside of politics, Hochul became Cuomo’s running mate for his second term, and she’s held the office of lieutenant governor ever since.

She’s Worked to Fight Sexual Violence

Cuomo is leaving office after allegations of sexual harassment, but Hochul has long taken the issue seriously in her career. In her time as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, she campaigned for the state’s Enough Is Enough law, passed in 2015, which was aimed at combating sexual assault on college campuses and strengthening protections for survivors of sexual assault.

Fighting sexual violence has been a consistent part of Hochul’s work. Earlier in her career in politics, she worked with her mother to open a domestic violence shelter in western New York.

“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service,” Hochul tweeted after the damning report against Cuomo, which detailed at least 11 allegations that had come to light. “The AG’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward.”

She’s Stepping in During Crises

Hochul has no shortage of issues to address as she takes office, not the least of which is that she is entering the role in the wake of the former office-holder perpetrating the very issues she has fought against, according to the AG’s investigation.

“Kathy Hochul has to come in and heal Albany somehow after decades of corruption and bullying and just a beyond toxic environment on a host of levels — sexual harassment and assault that’s just rampant and out in the open in Albany, and not just with Cuomo but from the culture,” Fordham University political scientist Christina Greer told The City NYC.

The problems aren’t limited to Cuomo: Hochul is also taking on the struggles New Yorkers face across the state, including a state housing crisis and a worker relief program, which was signed by Cuomo and is struggling in its rollout. This is all without mentioning the ongoing public health crisis of COVID-19, as New York is in the midst of another wave of cases.

In State Politics, Hochul’s Good Reputation Precedes Her

Hochul has flown under the radar, letting Cuomo take the spotlight during her time as lieutenant governor, but has netted respect from her fellow state officials. “She works hard, she listens to people, she cares,” Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan told the Wall Street Journal about Hochul this spring. “In any state, you want for your lieutenant governor somebody who can do the job of governor. It doesn’t always happen, but in Kathy Hochul’s case she has the ability to do the job if it comes to it.”

“She’s ready for any role that she may have in state government,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz told Politico in March. “I know she’s more than capable to handle any role in New York state government, including governor.”

Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: Andrew Cuomo Will Be Replaced By New York’s First Female Governor

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