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Lawmakers look for reset as Hochul takes the reins

A headshot of Kathy Hochul, wearing red, standing next to a brick wall
Pat Bradley
Incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul during a recent visit to Plattsburgh.

Elected to the office three times, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in his final hours in the executive mansion. Cuomo will resign at 11:59 p.m. Monday and hand control of state government to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat. State lawmakers are hoping for a fresh start with the new governor.

In her comments leading up to the transfer of power, Hochul has tried to distance herself from the scandal-scarred Cuomo administration while pledging a new era of collaboration in Albany.

“I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll travel the state to meet New Yorkers, to listen to them, to assure them that I’ve got their backs. And I will take their concerns and bring them back to our state capital and work with our partners in every level of government to come to solutions,” Hochul said.

Of course, all governors, to varying degrees, have said similar things before having to confront tough budget years and aborted legislative priorities.

Former Democratic Governor David Paterson — the last lieutenant governor to become governor back in 2008 — said he thinks it would be a good idea for Hochul to get facetime with legislators before the next session begins in January.

“I would think that maybe she might have reason to bring the legislature back in late September or October, something like that, so she herself can go and speak to a lot of the individual legislators, go to the conferences, not just the majorities, but the minorities as well,” he said. “She would really get a chance to let everybody know that she wants to have a collaborative working environment.”

Democrats control both chambers of the legislature. Known for being shut out of most decision-making and key meetings over the past decade, New York’s Republican leaders said they are cautiously optimistic about working with Hochul.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt of the 62nd district was Hochul’s constituent during her term in Congress a decade ago.

“I was able to make contact with her and we had a very good conversation,” he said. “And look it, I know there’s going to be probably continuing areas philosophically, policy-wise, where we don’t agree. But I’m also hoping we can do so civilly and in a different way than with the current governor," Ortt said. "And I’m hoping that she brings at least a different way of governing. Less bullying, less intimidation, less cut-throat, and obviously less corrupt than the current occupant. And everything I know of her says she probably would.”

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay represents the 120th district.

“I’m going to certainly try to work with her and try to be a partner with her in government so we can try to accomplish things and not necessarily have a relationship that’s contentious that makes it very difficult to get things done,” Barclay said. “That’s going to be my goal and I’m going to urge other members to give her the benefit of the doubt, at least initially.”

Democratic Assemblymember Phil Steck of Colonie said it’s a good time to scale back the power the executive branch has accumulated under Cuomo.

“Well, it’s going to be very different. Kathy is very congenial. I don’t think she has the attitude that Governor Cuomo did that one person in the entire state had all the answers to everything. She’s not like that at all. And that’s going to be helpful,” Steck said.

Hochul’s first full day in office is Tuesday.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.