Lieutenant Governor of New York may be the second-highest elected office in the state, but it’s not an important office, unless the governor leaves office during his (it could be her too, but it won’t be until next week) term. Right now, it is important because Governor Cuomo has resigned after being accused of a whole bunch of sexual harassment.
Unlike the Vice President, it’s not even clear that the Lieutenant Governor can break a tie vote in the State Senate. I found one instance, dating back more than 110 years, where the Lt. Governor thought he could break a tie on a procedural vote, but not on legislation.
The current Lt. Governor, Kathy Hochul, admitted in her first speech after Cuomo said he was going that she and Governor Cuomo aren’t close. I read somewhere that she said she and Cuomo hadn’t spoken since February. And stepping into the role of Governor isn’t a guarantee of political success. Mario Cuomo was Lt. Governor, and so was Herbert Lehman, going back many decades. Each was a successful Governor and Lehman went on to serve in the US Senate. But each of them was elected to succeed a governor who left office. They didn’t ascend mid-term.
In my lifetime, Malcolm Wilson, David Paterson, and soon Kathy Hochul succeeded or will succeed to the office. Neither Wilson, nor Paterson was regarded as a particularly effective governor, and neither was elected in his own right. Hochul has already announced that she will run for the office next year. I’ve heard some political analysts say that will put a damper on other Democrats’ ambitions. I say, no, it won’t. It will draw more Republicans out of the woodwork since the GOP candidate won’t be running against a long-term incumbent with millions in his war chest. However, since Paterson and Wilson didn’t win election in their own right, there will be other ambitious Democrats eager to challenge Hochul too.
Both houses of the New York State Legislature are controlled by Democrats, but many of them are to the left of Hochul on policy, so it remains to be seen how they’ll get along and who among New York Democrats may emerge to challenge her. Bill de Blasio is term-limited as Mayor of New York City. He’s making noises like a gubernatorial candidate, but whether he runs remains to be seen.
Even when I don’t agree politically with one of our elected leaders, I wish them well, because no matter who holds the office of Governor, I live here too. As the old saying goes: May you live in interesting times. In New York, it looks like we’re about to.