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  • Writer's pictureThe Ascend Fund

244 Years Later, Kathy Hochul to Become New York’s First Woman Governor

Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

After two and a half centuries of men governors, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will become New York’s first woman governor when she is sworn in on August 24th, 2021. Hochul ascends to the office following the resignation of Governor Andrew Cuomo after it was revealed he sexually harassed 11 women. Lt. Gov. Hochul will become just the 45th woman to serve as a governor in the history of the United States and one of only nine women currently serving in that role. [1]

Introducing New York’s First Woman Governor

Lt. Gov. Hochul’s political career began in 1994, when she was elected to the Hamburg Town Board. She later served as Erie County Clerk and represented New York’s 26th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, before being named as Gov. Cuomo’s running mate in 2014. She is currently serving her second term as lieutenant governor.

In addition to having held multiple elected offices, Lt. Gov. Hochul has long been a leading advocate for gender parity in politics and has worked tirelessly to support women seeking public office. She serves on the Advisory Committee for Vote Mama, which supports moms with young children running for office, and is deeply involved with Eleanor’s Legacy, a PAC working to elect Democratic women to state and local office in New York.

“I know what it’s like to be the only woman in a room. And to have these people talking over you and thinking you don’t matter,” Lt. Gov. Hochul has said of her own experience breaking barriers. “That’s been most of my career as an elected official for over 25 years. So it makes you tougher but it also makes you want to reach a hand back for the next generation of young women and engage them so they want to participate as well.” [2]

Women Ascending to the Governorship

The governor’s office has been particularly elusive for women – as we discussed in our recent column, Always the Lieutenant, Never the Governor. Women make up just 16% of governors in the United States – significantly behind where women stand in Congress (27%) and state legislatures (31%) – and 20 states have never had a woman governor. Since 2000, seven of the 27 women who have served as governor have ascended to the office by succeeding a governor who resigned or left office. [3]

Scourge of Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Politics, and the Path Forward

While we celebrate Lt. Gov. Hochul’s ascension to the governor’s office, we must also recognize the pain and trauma that women faced that led to Gov. Cuomo’s resignation. Resignation will not undo Gov. Cuomo’s history of harassment or the damage he did to the women who worked closely with him, whether or not they chose to step forward.

Sexual harassment and the systems that protect abusers are endemic in U.S. politics. Case in point: Two of the last three New York governors resigned from office due to sexual harassment or misconduct. [4]

Public reckonings about sexual harassment and abuse must result in larger systems change to punish perpetrators and ensure that patterns of abuse are not repeated. In two weeks, Lt. Gov. Hochul will make history, but we are determined to build a system in which women governors are the norm, not the exception. Learn more about how to support women running for governor, because women, like Lt. Gov. Hochul, are ready to lead.

[1] Center for American Woman and Politics – Women in Statewide Executive Offices in 2021 [2] New York One - Kathy Hochul Talks Monumental Year for Women in Politics [3] Center for American Women and Politics – History of Women Governors [4] New York Times – Spitzer Resigns, Citing Personal Failings


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