Gov. Kathy Hochul made history almost by accident, becoming New York’s first female governor when Andrew Cuomo resigned last year in the cloud of a sexual harassment scandal.

Hochul now is trying to be elected governor in a tumultuous time for New York.

Long before she took the oath of office as New York’s 57th Governor, Hochul made her name in local politics.

It started with a position on the town board in Hamburg, in Western New York.

What You Need To Know

  • Hochul began her career in politics running for local office in Western New York

  • She made a name for herself in 2007 when she as county clerk she challenged then-Governor Spitzer’s plan to provide driver’s licenses for non-citizens

  • Hochul took over for Andrew Cuomo after he resigned in scandal in August 2021

  • She has been working to restore confidence in government, although critics say there have been missteps

From there, Hochul became the deputy county clerk of Erie County, before being appointed to and then elected county clerk in 2007.

It was during that time when she had a very public fight with then-Governor Eliot Spitzer, who wanted to grant driver’s licenses to non-citizens. Hochul refused, riding a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that was popular in the working-class city of Buffalo at the time.

Today, those licenses are available to undocumented New Yorkers throughout the state. Hochul was asked about her previous stance last year.

“I had taken a position that has now evolved. And that evolution coincides with evolution of many people. Many people in the state of New York,” Hochul said.

In 2011, Hochul won an open Congressional seat in a tight four-way race.

“Well, we won with all your help. We had a seat to run in. And we are still running in that seat,” Hochul said on election night in 2011.

Although she won as a Democrat, the district was heavily Republican, and she lost it a year later.

But fate would strike again. In 2014, then Governor Andrew Cuomo tapped her as his running mate for lieutenant governor. They won two statewide elections together.

Whether she liked it or not, Hochul was tied to Cuomo and his legacy. Including in 2021 when Cuomo dropped this bombshell after being accused of sexual harassment by multiple women.

“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said in August 2021.

Hochul was once again in a position to take over a big job. Only now it was the biggest one in all of New York politics.

“Regarding his decision to step down, I believe it is appropriate and in the best interest of the state of New York,” Hochul said of Cuomo at the time.

Hochul immediately worked to change the tone of government in Albany.

“I want people to believe in their government again. It’s important to me that people have faith,” Hochul said shortly after being sworn into office.

Tackling her first state budget six months later, Hochul made what many critics considered rookie mistakes, including seeking big changes to criminal justice reforms the Democratic legislature passionately supported and not taking the time to explain why she wanted those changes to the public.

“It’s as secretive a budget as I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been up here for a lot of them,” Blair Horner of New York Public Interest Research Group said during budget talks in March.

Hochul also used her clout on budget negotiations to secure a new stadium deal for her beloved Buffalo Bills. It included hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies and further antagonized legislators from downstate and elsewhere when she sprung it in them in the 11th hour.

“A lot of things in life I can’t control, including timing. I think some of this was explained. The NFL, which was going to make sizable contribution to the cost, was meeting on March 28th.” Hochul explained after the budget was finalized in April.

In another bit of bad news for Hochul her handpicked lieutenant governor, former state-Sen. Brian Benjamin, was forced to resign in April after being indicted on corruption charges. Critics say Benjamin had an ethical cloud over his head when he was selected in August, but Hochul picked him anyway.

“This is a simple story of corruption,” said the United States Attorney for the Southern District Damian Williams last April.

After the legislative session concluded in June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York State’s pistol permit law as too restrictive. That forced lawmakers back to Albany for a special session to pass new laws restricting who can get guns, and where those guns can be carried.

“For example, if you have a history of dangerous behavior, you should not be able to get a gun. Full stop. Period,” Hochul said in July.

After winning her Democratic primary decisively against two opponents in June, Hochul pivoted to the general election where she faces Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican. Hochul has enjoyed a significant fundraising advantage, and public polls have consistently shown her ahead by double digits.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Early voting begins on Saturday, Oct. 29.