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What women want from Hochul in her first State of the State

Gov. Kathy Hochul, wearing a Buffalo Bills face mask, in front of Buffalo City Hall, where banners are hung and bollards are painted with red buffaloes to celebrate the Buffalo Bills.
Kathy Hochul
Kathy Hochul is our home girl, but she will be under state and national scrutiny for her first State of the State address as New York's first female governor.

"I really do see this as the beginning of her campaign."

Carrie Tirado Bramen, director of the University at Buffalo Gender Institute, said New York's first female governor will be under state — and national scrutiny — for her first State of the State address, especially because it's an election year. She said it's "very important" Hochul distinguish herself as a strong leader with a bold agenda.

Carrie Tirado Bramen, wearing black glasses, a blue dress and silver necklace
Carrie Tirado Bramen
Carrie Tirado Bramen is a professor of English and director of the Gender Institute at the University at Buffalo.

"This is a real opportunity for her to speak out and to lay out where she stands on issues," she said. "I do think that she is playing it too safe, strategically. She really has to show leadership."

Tirado Bramen said "a litmus test for leadership" is where one stands on controversial issues. One way to do that would be for Hochul to follow California's lead as a sanctuary state for abortion.

"I think reproductive justice and access to abortion is a human right. And it's a public health issue, as well," she said. "Clinics of New York have been easily accessible through major highways for women in Ohio and other regions of the United States. So New York State is already a sanctuary state in practice. And I hope that Hochul continues to make it so. Hochul has been actually really good on reproductive justice."

She also wanted to hear a focus on the common issues that unite all New Yorkers, like affordable housing, ethics reform and COVID-19.

"This third wave is much greater than the resources right now. She was emphasizing how every New Yorker will have home test kits and we'll have N95 masks. We'll be watching to see how efficiently will New Yorkers be receiving these resources," Tirado Bramen said.

Daemen College Political Science Professor Lisa Parshall agreed Hochul is still "overshadowed" by her predecessor, but COVID "could turn the corner" if the governor avoids the early pitfalls of the pandemic.

Lisa Parshall is wearing black glasses and a multiprint dress in front of a yellow background as she leans on her hand.
Lisa Parshall
Lisa Parshall is a Political Science professor at Daemen College and chair of state and local politics for the New York State Political Science Association.

"The American Recovery Plan. Some of that money now is going to start being released to state and local governments. And I think the ability to get out ahead of that and to show how those funds can be best put to use in New York might be an area where she can show some real leadership," Parshall said. "That could be something where she appeals to a more pragmatic localism perhaps, of solving problems at a local level with the aid of the state, where local governments don't feel so much that the state policy priorities work against them."

Parshall also expected to hear about abortion from Hochul, as the governor's already been making announcements with reproductive rights organizations, talking about New York funding services denied in other states. But another polarizing issue that needs addressing is legalization.

"We're now seeing how many municipalities are opting out," she said. "The implementation of those new laws, it's going to be a challenge. And again, you've got a governor who's who's got a sensibility that stems from her experience at the local governing level. So it will be, again, fascinating to see whether or not her administration can help localities over some of these kind of tough state-federalism questions over the next couple of years."

Along with that is criminal justice reform. Parshall said "progressives will be pushing Hochul in one direction, while conservatives pull in the other."

Sherie Scavone, CEO of the Western New York Women's Foundation, wants Hochul to just be "authentic."

Sheri Scavone is wearing a red dress and red earrings against a gray background.
WNY Women's Foundation
Sheri Scavone is CEO of the WNY Women's Foundation.

"I hope we will hear some things that do bring hope, that do set us forward, that do transcend politics and bureaucracy. And I think it's really important for her to say that," Scavone said. "If we don't lift those boats, as they say, then the state is not going to rise."

Scavone said, quite frankly, she would expect that from a woman in leadership.

"If you look at many of the issues that impact women, it's about power. And certainly when we look at intersectionality of gender and layer over race and ethnicity and other factors, that power becomes exponential," she said. "But we also know women bring different sets and acumen to the table, including collaboration and emotional intelligence and participatory management. And that's how they govern."

To that end, Scavone wanted the governor to rebuild some of New York's "basic and fundamental infrastructure," like caregiving.

"We know that caregiving has been undervalued that we have literally built our society on the backs of women as caregivers, and certainly our black and brown sisters as a majority of those caregivers. But we never talked about caregiving," she said. "We never talked about caregiving for our older adults, for those living with disabilities, for those with mental illness and for children. And so I think that is an issue that is getting more airtime because it's impacted businesses at a very high level."

Hochul is scheduled to deliver her State of the State address at 1 p.m. Wednesday from the Assembly Chamber in Albany. WBFO will carry the governor's address live, on-air and online. Watch it here.

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