Cuomo picks ex-Rep. Hochul as new running mate


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) appears via video with former congresswoman Kathy Hochul of Buffalo as his choice to be New York’s next lieutenant governor during the opening session of the state’s Democratic Convention  in Melville, N.Y., on May 21, 2014. (Richard Drew/AP)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has tapped former U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) as his new running mate, the governor said Wednesday.

Hochul, who lost her Buffalo-area seat in the 2012 election, gives the Democratic ticket a geographic and gender balance. She will replace incumbent Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy (D) of Rochester, who said this month that he would retire from politics rather than seek reelection with Cuomo.

“This should be another big boost for Buffalo,” Cuomo told delegates to the state Democratic convention, according to the Buffalo News. “This is a big deal to have a lieutenant governor from your town.”

Cuomo and Hochul are heavy favorites to win this November’s general election over Republican nominee Rob Astorino and Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, the GOP’s lieutenant governor nominee.

The lieutenant governor’s spot is a largely ceremonial role in New York, relegated to serving as president of the state Senate. Hochul would serve as acting governor when Cuomo leaves the state, though the governor has made a point to stay in New York; he has spent only one night during his first term outside the state, when he came to Washington late last year for a late-night event at the Kennedy Center.

But the lieutenant governor can ascend to the top spot if the governor quits his term prematurely. When then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) left office after being ensnared in a prostitution scandal in 2008, his number two, David Paterson, became governor.

Cuomo has relied on Duffy to travel the state, part of the reason Duffy said no to a second term. Announcing his retirement, Duffy said he experienced leg and back pain after so many long drives across the state.

Hochul would be the first female lieutenant governor of New York since Betsy McCaughey Ross, who served one term with Gov. George Pataki (R) between 1995 and 1998. The geographic balance matters too: Cuomo lost eight western New York counties to Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino (R) during his otherwise successful 2010 campaign.

Cuomo also considered Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D), Suffolk County Executive Steve Ballone (D) and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney (R) for the number two spot.

There is some irony to Cuomo’s pick: The governor backed a compromise redistricting plan in a deal reached between state Democrats and Republicans in advance of the 2012 elections that redrew Congressional lines. New York lost two seats in the decennial reapportionment process, and the compromise map ensured that both parties would lose one seat in Congress. Republicans lost a member in the New York City area, and Hochul lost her seat in Erie County.

Democratic members of Congress are still sore at Cuomo over the redistricting compromise.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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