HAMBURG — Hamburg native Kathy Hochul is no stranger to Western New York, and as the just-tapped running mate for New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, she will be representing her hometown on a larger stage.
Hochul grew up in Hamburg, the daughter of Jack and Patricia Courtney. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and her law degree from Catholic University, she worked as legal counsel to Congressman John LaFalce and later, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She also worked in private practice in Washington. D.C., where she and her husband Bill lived for several years, before she returned home to Hamburg to raise her two children, Bill and Katie.
In 1994, Hochul was elected to the Hamburg Town Board. In 2003, she served as deputy Erie County Clerk before she became clerk in 2007, where she served as the county’s highest-ranked female representative until 2011. She won a special election in the 26th district as a United States Congresswoman until she lost the race for re-election to former Erie County Executive Chris Collins in 2013. Since then, she has worked in government relations for M&T Bank.
“I will always be grateful to the people of Hamburg for believing in me and providing my first opportunity to directly serve my community as a public servant,” Hochul said. “I was raised in Hamburg, raised our children there and knew we had an outstanding quality of life that needed to be preserved and protected.”
As of last week, Hochul is back in the saddle, as Cuomo announced he had selected her as his lieutenant governor running mate. Hochul, a democrat, has historically earned the endorsements of the National Rifle Association, women and conservative groups, since she has vocally supported gun rights and gender equality. She is also expected to gain support in upstate and Western New York, two of the only areas where Carl Paladino, Cuomo’s 2010 opponent, won support.
Rob Astorino will be the Republican candidate this fall, with Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss as his running mate.
In Hamburg, several of Hochul’s old friends and colleagues said they are excited to see what the hometown girl can do.
“It’s exciting. It’s fabulous,” said Randall Hoak, commissioner of the Erie County Department of Senior Services and a Hamburg resident. “Kathy is back where she belongs, on the political stage. She did a lot of good for Hamburg, when she was on the town board, and she’ll do a lot of good for the state, as well. I think she’s a great choice.”
“Whether fighting for greenspace while creating a pro-business and pro-family environment, to making our roads safer, or advocating for the retirees of Bethlehem Steel who lost their health benefits, my time on the town board allowed me to directly impact the lives of my community,” Hochul said, adding that she will continue that work, on a larger stage.
Hoak said he had known Hochul “forever,” even babysitting her kids on occasion, when they were growing up in the village. “I’ve watched her come up, I’ve watched her kids grow up. This is a great thing for our town and for our state,” he added.
Hochul and her family lived down the street from the Henry family for about 20 years, until Hochul’s kids grew up and moved out and she and her husband sold the house for a condo downtown. Henry said that she thought that move gave Hochul the freedom to run again and “take some risks, now that she doesn’t have to worry about taking care of a house or having kids at home.
“She’s got politics in her blood,” Henry added. “When she was working for M&T, she was flying around in the private jets and talking to all the important people, but it isn’t the same as making the decisions, having the votes. And that’s what she loves, being a civil servant, as she calls it.”
Although Henry said she was surprised to hear the news of Hochul’s appointment, she was not surprised that her friend was taking that step.
“She always likes these kinds of challenges,” she said. “She never said a bad word about M&T, never said she didn’t like it, but seeing her back [in politics], she’s more energized, she’s back in her element.”
Hochul said she plans to carry on the work she’s done on the local, county and national level, as she steps up to the New York state platform.The Sun disclaimer: Schumer is a former employee of Hochul’s, in her county clerk and Congressional race.