Jerry Kremer

Governor Hochul’s timely arrival


As a former state official, I get many questions from readers, clients and friends about our political leaders. Lately, the most frequent one is, what do I think of Gov. Kathy Hochul? The short answer is I think she’s great, but there’s more to it, based on the fact that I’ve been following state politics for almost 66 years. Governors come and go, and many of them attract little or no attention.
I have seen a lot of governors, from afar and up close. My first sighting was in 1959, when W. Averell Harriman attended a Democratic cocktail party in Lido Beach. While finishing law school, I was working as a part-time reporter for a weekly newspaper, and met Governor Harriman for a brief interview. He was a tall, patrician figure who held many government posts before becoming the state’s 48th governor, but he attracted little attention from the public.
Nelson Rockefeller succeeded Harriman. Rockefeller was a man of many talents, and like Harriman, was the son of a billionaire. In his time he was a political rock star, and he brought a great deal of attention to the position.  He built the Albany government complex, and spent your money like it was his. I met him frequently as a new state legislator and he had that rare quality known as gravitas.
His successor, Malcolm Wilson, served for only a few months after Rockefeller resigned before losing to former Congressman Hugh Carey. Carey was a jovial and highly competent public servant who successfully took on many challenging projects, while occasionally battling with his own Democratic Legislature. His Irish charm made him well known around the state for two terms in office.
Carey was succeeded by Mario Cuomo. Cuomo was one of the state’s most liberal governors, which often put him at odds with the Legislature. He was known for his brilliant oratory, and he turned down the chance to run for president as well as membership on the U.S. Supreme Court. When I was chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, we sometimes butted heads, but always stayed friends.

Cuomo served three terms, but as is the case with all long-tenured officials, the public eventually gets tired of you, and, seeking a fourth term, he lost to Republican George Pataki. Pataki never gained the notoriety of his predecessor, but he was known to be a hardworking official. During his time in office, he supervised the takeover of the Long Island Lighting Company and helped set up the Long Island Power Authority.
Then, in the space of three years, New York had two new governors. In 2007, Eliot Spitzer came into office with a bold agenda, but personal issues drove him from power the following year, and Lt. Governor David Paterson succeeded him. A native Long Islander, Paterson was a bright, sharp-tongued elected official, but he failed to win his party’s nomination and he stepped aside for Andrew Cuomo.
Unlike many of his predecessors, the younger Cuomo quickly became a well-known figure. He attracted national attention last year, when the coronavirus pandemic gave him the opportunity to be a television star. Whether they are pro- or anti-Cuomo, fair-minded people will acknowledge that he became another Robert Moses, completing major projects that no other governor would dare undertake.
Last August, Cuomo resigned in disgrace and was succeeded by Hochul, his lieutenant governor and a seasoned western-New York political figure. She has swiftly embraced her new role as the state’s first woman governor. Her success to date is primarily due to the fact that she is experienced in handling people issues, both at a national and local level. She has attracted strong financial support from the state’s power brokers because they like her personal style.
While few are counting, she has made over 75 appearances in downstate New York, and has displayed wit and charm while manifesting take-charge talents. Upstate New Yorkers are big supporters, because she acts and talks like one of them. There is no doubt in my mind, based on all the governors in my life, that she is the right person for the job at the right time.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?