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Hochul becomes first woman to be the Democratic Party's designee for NY governor

Gov. Kathy Hochul stands with former NY Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the New York Democratic Convention
Gov. Kathy Hochul stands with former NY Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the New York Democratic Convention

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday became the first woman in state history to be a major-party nominee for governor.

Both she and Hillary Clinton, the keynote speaker at the state Democratic convention, expressed their concerns about the deep divisions in contemporary American politics.

In her acceptance speech, Hochul said she wants to address the deep political divides in the state, help New Yorkers recover from the damages of the long COVID-19 pandemic, and protect a woman’s right to choose abortion.

She cited the example of another New York governor -- and president -- Theodore Roosevelt and his analogy comparing politics to an arena, where those who take leadership are “marred by blood and sweat” in contrast to the “timid souls” who sit on the sidelines.

“Now a woman has entered that arena as governor,” Hochul said to cheers.

Hochul’s been in office for six months, after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in a sexual harassment scandal, and she already has a hefty campaign fund of over $21 million, solid standing in the polls, and widespread support within the Democratic Party, as well as several major labor unions.

She pledged to continue working to revive the state’s economy, and protect the rights of Black, brown and Asian New Yorkers, as well as the LGBTQ+ community. She said she’ll work to combat gun violence and ensure criminal justice for everyone.

The governor, who was interrupted by hecklers advocating for tenants’ rights and immigrant workers, said she intends to run her campaign like an underdog.

“Here’s my playbook: You run with confidence, but with the tenacity of an underdog,” Hochul said. “You take nothing for granted, and you fight until the very last second.”

Hochul’s speech was preceded by that of another Democratic woman who has broken barriers: Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, former U.S. senator from New York and former first lady.

Clinton last addressed the state Democrats 22 years ago, when she was nominated as the party’s choice for U.S. senator, a race that she won.

Clinton, who lost to former President Donald Trump in 2016, said just because President Joe Biden ultimately defeated Trump does not mean that the division and “madness” is over.

She offered a stinging condemnation of the Republican Party, saying they are “normalizing” and trying to cover up the deadly insurgency at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and perpetuate the “big lie” that Trump actually won in 2020.

“They’ll ban books but do nothing about guns, they’ll make it harder for people to vote, but easier for big corporations to bust unions,” Clinton said. “They’ll let polluters trash our environment and let Donald Trump trash our democracy.

“That’s why I intend to work my heart out to elect Democrats up and down the ticket this November,” Clinton pledged.

Before Hochul can run in the general election in November, she first faces a primary. One of her opponents, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, put his name forward to request that he receive the 25% of the delegates’ votes needed to avoid petitioning to get on the ballot. Williams got 12.46% of the vote, and will now be collecting signatures to secure his spot.

Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi spoke to the delegates at their closed-door breakfast, but did not ask for their vote, saying he will also be petitioning in the coming months to qualify for the June ballot.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.