Deja Vu: Lt. Gov. Hochul preps to succeed Cuomo, unlike Paterson’s swift succession of Spitzer

Cuomo Crisis

(New York)  When New York’s 54th Governor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned on March 10, 2008 — within two days of being named “Client 9” in a prostitution scandal — his Lt. Governor, David Paterson, essentially had 48 hours to prepare for his new job.

“This has been a very sad few days in the history of New York,” Paterson said at a hastily called news conference that day.

Spitzer had just formally given up his position, in a live news conference that lasted less than four minutes. His then-wife, Silda Wall, stood stoically by his side.

“In the past few days, I’ve begun to atone for my private failings,” Spitzer said, as he started his statement. “I am deeply sorry I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker, I sincerely apologize.”

Spitzer’s tone was quite different from that of Andrew Cuomo, the 56th Governor of New York State, who resigned Tuesday after a lengthy explanation of his behavior around women and men, disputing that his hugging and kissing rose to the level of sexual misconduct.  

Both Spitzer and Cuomo had served as New York attorney general before their respective elections to the state’s highest office.

Cuomo, 63, announced his resignation a week after a damning report from New York’s current attorney general, Letitia James — which found 11 women who accused Cuomo of inappropriate behavior to be credible.

Now, a two week transition begins before Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul takes over and becomes the first female chief executive of New York State.

“She’s not coming into this blindsided, like David Paterson was, when Eliot Spitzer resigned,” said Democratic lobbyist, Jerry Kremer. “She’s been preparing, probably since February, when it was very clear that the governor might resign.”

After a damaging report about nursing home deaths at the end of January, Cuomo’s troubles escalated when a litany of women started coming forward, complaining that the governor had made unwanted advances toward them, sometimes in the office.

“I think the past six months, it’s been very clear that she was doing her homework,” Kremer said.

Hochul is a lawyer who served one term in Congress, representing western New York near Buffalo, before she was elected to the number two position under Cuomo in 2015.

She has led task forces on regional development, the opioid crisis, and the COVID-19 emergency.  Now she will be dealing with issues like marijuana legalization and new slots on the MTA Board.

Hochul is a working mom who has said she understands the challenges of juggling career and motherhood. Pundits  predict Hochul will make a bid for a full term as governor in next year’s election.

“I wouldn’t underestimate Kathy Hochul,” Kremer said. “She’s been around the state. She has an opportunity to make an impression in the next 14 months.”

But there’s another woman who might provide some stiff competition to Hochul next year: Attorney General Letitia James.

“She benefits from the fact that she’s had great name recognition,” Kremer noted. “So she benefits over any other candidate. And she’s had an opportunity as attorney general to prove herself.”

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