Kathy Hochul is New York’s Kay Ivey
Kathy Hochul became governor after Andrew Cuomo was found to have been using his power to take advantage of women who worked for his office and sexually assault others involved in Democratic politics. She is now running for the position as an incumbent. Her strategy in the primary was to ignore her competitors, and the general election strategy will be toeing the moderate party line. Kathy Hochul is New York’s Kay Ivey.
Kay Ivey became Alabama’s governor after Robert Bentley was found to be having an affair with a staffer whom he ensured received all the necessary promotions, raises, and political influence she needed. Instead of trying to overcome the “Love Gov” moniker, Bentley resigned. In Kay Ivey’s first election for governor, she never appeared in a debate. She never mentioned a single one of her competitors (primary or general election) and ran on a strictly bland Republic platform.
The reasoning behind this strategy for their elections is brilliant. The state parties in power are unwilling to rock the boat after their leaders embarrassed the organization. This keeps any primary competition weak and without big money support. Crushing the primary in a state controlled by a single party more than guarantees a monstrous win in the general election. Voters like to vote for who they think will win, not their favorite candidate. Ivey waltzed through her first election and Hochul copied her steps.
There are certainly differences between the two. Ivey has been rumored to be a closeted lesbian with a drinking problem. She is 14 years older, and has the sometimes endearing, othertimes insulting nickname “Governor Meemaw”. She has about 3 decades more experience in state government than Hochul does. Ivey began her career in Fob James’ cabinet in 1979. Hochul first held a statewide seat in 2011. Whether you agree with her politics (this writer certainly does not), Ivey has shown an ability to appease Trump Republicans as well as the reformed conservatives without a party and has one of the highest approval ratings of any governor in the union.
Hochul hitched her wagon to the Cuomo campaign and was rewarded with one of the most challenging governorships in the country. Her approval rating hangs around 40% and rarely has reached close to 50%. Unlike Ivey, who can spurn the city of Birmingham, Hochul still needs New York City voters support and she has not done much to earn it. After taking $800 million from the education fund and giving it to the city of Buffalo to build a new stadium for a team her husband works with, city residents have every right to be concerned.
Hochul does have a decent strategy for surviving her first full term in that regard. She doesn’t have the name recognition or gender to play the role of Andrew Cuomo, who fought against the city and blamed city government for any issues it had. Instead, Hochul is playing nice with new mayor Eric Adams. This will assuredly play out in her advantage. Adams is a weak candidate and clearly doesn’t hold the favor in the state or even city party to protect himself from any major mistakes. Hochul can play nice and then leave him to rot as soon as things sour.
The state of New York’s current political structure mirrors one of the least healthy democracies in the United States. The Alabama state government and national representation is tightly controlled by a single party. There is one city that swings the state leftward, but the rural areas and more suburban regions tend to support a dangerous breed of conservatism. This led the state of Alabama to abandon any social safety net and ensure it finished in the back 45-50th in every statistical category. When Ivey needs a quick round of support, she just picks a conservative talking point, currently it is transgendered children, and beats it to death. Leaving children and families lying in her wake.
The concern here is not that Hochul will adopt a leftist politic that ignores its constituency. It is that recent history shows us that when a dominant political party is threatened it doubles down on its worst instincts. Those are primarily corruption and institutional incest. Loyalty for loyalty’s sake breeds poor decision making. In the months leading up to and following Trump’s loss the Republican party had an opportunity to make amends. Instead it chose to host an insurrection and blame it on Democrats. Kay Ivey helped make the Alabama republican party resolute in its total control of the state.
Hochul will most assuredly adopt a similar practice. Her administration will do everything possible to funnel power and resources to the party leaders who rewarded her after Cuomo’s resignation. She’ll choose the occasional liberal issue and force through a poorly thought out policy change that probably wouldn’t hold up to the courts. Then she’ll go right back to building the party coffers, paving the way for worse candidates and a crumbling political structure. When the institution of the party is more important than the people who vote, society inherently suffers.