Kathleen C. Hochul worked tirelessly for her district and Western New York during her short time in the House of Representatives, and now that she is departing Congress following a tough election and an even tougher battle over the fiscal cliff, her contributions should stand as a testament to an unfailing dedication toward her constituents.
Hochul leaves on a high note.
She scored a rare legislative victory in the “Clothe a Homeless Hero Act,” calling on the Transportation Security Administration to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs and local charities to distribute unclaimed clothing left at airport security checkpoints to homeless and needy veterans and their families.
It was her only free-standing bill to pass the Republican-controlled House. The Senate also passed the measure and it is expected to be signed into law by the president.
But perhaps her greatest legacy in this area can be defined in her tireless efforts on behalf of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
Hochul successfully authored legislation to prevent the immediate closure of the air base, punctuated by the appearance of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to identify a new mission for the base. The stakes were high, involving hundreds of jobs and the base’s future economic viability.
Other highlights include helping to streamline the temporary guest worker program, which is now available electronically and saves farmers across the country time and money. In addition, she devoted her time along with the rest of the Western New York delegation to push the Federal Aviation Administration for tougher regulations following the crash of Continental Flight 3407.
Her accomplishments go far beyond her slender legislative record, which was limited by her status as a member of the minority party. Her ascension from Erie County clerk to Congress was unlikely from the start.
Hochul emerged as a dark horse, thwarting what should have been an easy victory for Assemblywoman Jane Corwin back in May 2011 during a special election for the 26th District. But Hochul prevailed despite a Republican voter majority.
Redistricting handed her an even more heavily Republican 27th District, and she narrowly lost to former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, even as she touted what she called a “record of independence” in Washington.
The fact that the race was even close can be attributed to many things, including her claim to have secured more than $1.3 million for the district during her short tenure. But it’s also a tribute to her style and the time spent in her district meeting and listening to her constituents.
Hochul could have folded camp weeks ago, but she kept pushing to do more during her final days as a legislator. It’s something that both she and the people she has served can be proud of.