Sheinkopf Speaks: Hochul earns her political mettle

Gov. Kathy Hochul addresses the large crowd at the Brooklyn Democratic Party Gala, Nov. 1, 2022. Photo by Tsubasa Berg
Hank Sheinkopf

It looked like it was over.

Non-campaign affiliated poll takers and pundits said the truth: the effort to elect the first woman New York governor might fail. The campaign was a mess to all apparently but those on the deep inside. The television ads bland, flavorless, emotionless. The streets without a piece of campaign literature tossed to the ground. No excitement.

Anybody who’s spent two seconds with Kathy Hochul knows that she’s a born prizefighter. You’d have to drag her out of the ring before she would ever allow any referee to end a fight. She’s tough. Politics is her business.

All who’d counted her out on the day she raised her right hand–sworn in to take the job left behind by Andrew Cuomo–were wrong. Nothing weak about this woman from Western New York, a place known for a brand of politics the baddest pols in Brooklyn might run from.

Hochul was expected to wait in line to get the same treatment as many other public officials and political figures. It’s called the third degree. That’s where they stand over you and make you sweat. Ask you questions. Demand the answers they want in the way they want. But she didn’t.

From the day she was no longer New York lieutenant governor to this moment she never stopped. She traveled endlessly. She raised the dough. And did her job hobbled by a campaign she had to win and by a legislature whose members rarely suffer defeat, are not term-limited and don’t take risks. Hochul’s victory or her losing the race wouldn’t really matter to Assembly Members or State Senators. Few ever lose. Many are in districts where they can’t lose. Some never face a primary or general election. They got it made.

Kathy Hochul was on her own.

And she still is.

People in many parts the state blamed her for rising crime. They tried to say she was responsible for the heavily criticized bail reform law passed in Albany.

It was all on her.

Meanwhile Republican Lee Zeldin long without much in the campaign till found some funders. It became a race. He said crime, crime, crime. She said for far too long abortion, abortion, likely because her pollsters told her it was the only move. Result: Zeldin numbers move up.

Credit the Governor herself for what happens next. The message shifts to Zeldin as extremist and Hochul fighter for the people. And then the big guns show up, big shots that the African American communities will respect, and listen to.

They came because she asked.

She wins by five. But Zeldin’s victory is the end of the state senate veto proof Democratic majority, and Republicans winning congressional seats in a rout which will be remembered for likely giving Republicans majority control of the US House of Representatives.

None of this takes away from Kathy Hochul’s victory.

The future? Not easy. She’ll have to fight the safe seat holders. She needs bail reform changes. She’ll have to make sense of a fiscal crisis for which there is no model for solution, and much potential for a failure that could forever change New York City in ways none would want.

That’s the victory Kathy Hochul won. Bet on her. Bet on New York