Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to be pushed out of office under federal indictment, which would elevate Buffalo’s own Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul — who would become the first Western New Yorker to hold the position in our lifetime. Sources familiar with US Attorney Preet Bharara says that his office is actively considering how best to time such an indictment.
The growing consensus in his office is to issue the indictment the day following the open of January’s legislative session, though some of the US Attorney’s staff believes that the indictment should instead be timed ahead of September’s Democrat primary. The political consideration: could an indictment swing primary contests against those who are aligned with the Cuomo administration?
In either event, local political operatives from both parties have recognized the deep public interest in ensuring that a Governor Hochul’s tenure is long — and could yield extraordinary state resources for capital investment and infrastructure across the region, and in Buffalo particularly. Operatives are actively considering how best to posture Hochul once she assumes office.
There are two schools of thought, and both are complicated by the expectation that Preet Bharara has ambitions on the Governor’s office. In a Democrat primary against Bharara, should Hochul move to solidify her regional base upstate, or position herself as the liberal standard bearer? Some observers point to US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s ability to woo the liberal downstate machine, but only with the strong guidance of — and complete submission to — Senator Chuck Schumer.
Others argue that Hochul should forgo any thought of reelection and simply serve out the three remaining years of the current term of office — with the singular objective of siphoning as much state money for infrastructure investment as is possible. They suggest that, with issues like rent control and mayoral control of NYC schools needing renewal next session, that a Governor Hochul will have the leverage to insist on a $5 billion build out of the University at Buffalo.
“Turning Buffalo into Berkeley is a sellable concept to New York City liberals, because they see it as making the red parts of the state more blue,” said one operative who actively lobbies elected officials in Albany. “If Hochul threatens to allow rent control and mayoral schools to expire, she has extraordinary leverage — and that’s just in her first session.”
Operatives speculate that a Governor from Western New York could mean $5 billion a year in new infrastructure resources for everything from mass transit expansion, highway removal projects, city parks and public space improvements, waterfront access, industrial modernization, venture capital funding, specialized incubator spaces, and new Roswell research laboratories.
But state money and the drafting of the state budget are just a single lever of the power that stems from the Governor’s office, and Hochul should be sure not to underplay her hand. Gubernatorial appointments, the bully pulpit, and the national stage during a presidential primary year are all equally potent opportunities.