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Former Erie County party chair says Hochul as governor is 'good news' for WNY, NYS

Bill Hochul (left), Kathy Hochul and a sign saying "VOTE KATHY HOCHUL"
Mike Desmond
Former U.S. Attorney for the Western District Bill Hochul (l) would become New York State's First Gentleman when his wife, Kathy Hochul, becomes governor.

Former Erie County Democratic Chair and County Legislature Chair Len Lenihan vividly remembers nearly 50 years ago, when he was readying for his first run for office, working with a high school intern in Democratic legislator offices in the old Donovan State Office Building. Today that high school intern is days away from becoming governor of New York.

Lenihan has watched as Kathy Hochul has climbed the political ladder to lieutenant governor. Lenihan said she won't get into vicious infighting, like between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

"She hasn't forgotten why she's there — and she's there to serve the public, serve the people of New York," Lenihan said. "And this is not an ego battle or some sort of match to show who's the greater, who's the stronger. This is about service — and we got to get back to that. We got to get away from this ego stuff and focus more on humility, kindness and service."

As county chair, Lenihan helped Hochul get her first big job as county clerk, moving up from her position as a Hamburg Town Board member, and he watched as she kept climbing the political ladder through the local, county, state and federal levels.

"Gotta be tough to take on the responsibilities and the challenges that somebody at her level has already undertaken, both in Congress and in the county and, of course, in the state. But now she's going to be in a really tough position," Lenihan said. "But you know what, her demeanor is one of acceptance, is one of straightforwardness. She is approachable. She's likeable, but she's not afraid to make tough decisions."

Lenihan said this shift in leadership will be great for Western New York and New York State.

"This is going to be a good time for the state, with the pressure off, with Cuomo around," he said, "and it's going to be a good time for the State of New York, with somebody who's basically from amongst us. Her father worked at Bethlehem Steel. She's a Western New Yorker through and through and she's going to be the governor of the State of New York and that's good news for Western New York. But I think it's good news for the whole state."

Hochul will have to run next year if she wants a full term as governor, likely against Attorney General Letitia James and others. Lenihan said the future governor has spent more than six years across New York, meeting with politicians and with ordinary people, and they will decide who is on the gubernatorial ballot in November of 2022 and who is sworn in January 1, 2023.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.