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New York Times: “How Kathy Hochul Went From Unexpected Governor to Clear Front-Runner”

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New reporting from the New York Times is highlighting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s “unquestioned front-runner” status and transformational leadership.

The New York Times notes how Gov. Hochul has “put a new face on a state government…” as governor. Since taking office, Gov. Hochul has proposed a record $216 billion state budget that would make huge investments in schools and provide tax breaks to homeowners. She’s also announced proposals to increase access to affordable housing and reduce crime.

Her strong leadership is reflected in her standing in the New York gubernatorial primary as a “campaign juggernaut that has amassed $21 million…more than any of her rivals combined.”

Gov. Hochul’s decisive lead in the primary has also been cemented in race polling — all of which shows Gov. Hochul with a “commanding lead” over the rest of the field.

“Gov. Hochul took office with a promise to fight for New Yorkers every day,” said DGA Senior Communications Advisor Christina Amestoy. “Her momentum and clear frontrunner status is a direct result of her success in keeping the promise she made. Gov. Hochul has already made significant inroads getting things done for the state, and she’s made it clear she’s just getting started.” 

Read more from the New York Times on Gov. Hochul’s strong momentum:

New York Times: How Kathy Hochul Went From Unexpected Governor to Clear Front-Runner

When Kathy Hochul unexpectedly ascended to the governor’s mansion last August, elevated after her predecessor’s sexual harrassment scandal, she hardly resembled the kind of political powerhouse New Yorkers were accustomed to — brash, self-aggrandizing, downstate and male.

Many in Gotham’s tight-knit political class immediately assigned an asterisk to her name and predicted that Ms. Hochul, a moderate from Buffalo with a penchant for making friends but not headlines, would struggle in a pitched primary battle to hold onto the job.

Six months later, they could scarcely look more wrong.

Instead, Ms. Hochul set out on a brisk campaign to corner party leaders and crowd out potential rivals that was as ruthlessly efficient as it was exceedingly congenial. Leveraging the powers of her office as well as her own self-effacing style, she put a new face on a state government mired in scandal and built a campaign juggernaut that had amassed $21 million by January, more than any of her rivals combined.

The transformation from accidental governor to unquestioned front-runner will culminate on Thursday when Ms. Hochul, 63, is poised to win the Democratic Party’s endorsement for a full term ahead of its June primary. In a nod to Ms. Hochul’s history-making status as the first woman to lead New York, Hillary Clinton plans to introduce her as the party’s new standard-bearer at a convention in Midtown Manhattan.

“The nomination is going to be a coronation for her,” said former Gov. David A. Paterson, who, like Ms. Hochul, took office in the wake of a predecessor’s scandal-fueled resignation. “It’s astonishing how you would almost think she’s been there for five years.”

[…]

But the story of Ms. Hochul’s ascent goes beyond chance, and is built just as much on 18-hour days, shrewd political maneuvering, dogged fund-raising, careful preparation and relationships forged over years of quietly trudging across the state as lieutenant governor, according to interviews with close to 30 political operatives, lawmakers, union leaders and campaign advisers who have closely watched her trajectory.

She has not won over the political class with a particular ideological agenda or new policy vision, to the chagrin of some of her left-leaning critics, but rather a bet that a state exhausted from years of political scandal and a draining pandemic is not particularly interested in more drama from Albany.

“What is it they say about luck? Luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” said James Featherstonhaugh, a fixture of Albany’s lobbying scene. “When she became governor, it’s not like she dropped in from the moon. She understands New York state government probably as thoroughly as anybody.”

[…]

Numerous leaders in New York have praised Ms. Hochul for her willingness to listen on contentious issues. Ms. Hochul, who declined to be interviewed, told reporters on Tuesday that she intended to “run like an underdog until it’s over” and would prioritize informing New Yorkers about her policies.

“You get the sense you are speaking to somebody who is actually listening to you, not just going through the motions,” said Henry Garrido, executive director of the city’s largest public union, District Council 37.

[…]

“Before Gov. Hochul, I used to say that I served with eight governors, and they all seemed to use the same training manual,” said Richard Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat in his 52nd year in the Assembly. “Of the 35 budgets that I’ve seen as health chair, this is my far the best.”

Ms. Hochul’s task was made far easier by a flood of one-time federal investments. Where her predecessors battled with deficits, Ms. Hochul has been able to propose spending liberally on major capital projects, schools and health care workers. Each proposal won her plaudits with key constituencies — and helped her attract campaign contributions.

At the same time, Ms. Hochul used every tool she had to court endorsers and campaign donations, one $250,000 fund-raiser at a time. Lawmakers and union leaders, some of whom had known her for years, described repeated phone calls asking for support, which left them calculating whether to bet against a sitting governor who had the power to include or bypass their priorities in the budget.

Early endorsements by Hazel N. Dukes, the head of the New York State chapter of the N.A.A.C.P, and Emily’s List, a national fund-raising powerhouse for female candidates who support abortion rights, helped lend a sense of momentum that grew though the fall, with her campaign announcing fresh endorsements almost daily.

“She is relentless,” said Emily Giske, a prominent Albany lobbyist. “You have 24 hours in the day. She has 48.”

[…]