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.
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? JKremer@liherald.com.