Kathy Hochul has made it a point over the past several weeks to tell anybody who would listen how much she enjoys her job as vice president of government relations for M&T Bank.
She gets to travel to Washington on bank business and renew old acquaintances, she would gush, and represent a powerful financial institution and its leader – Bob Wilmers.
“I really love my job,” she told several thousand of her closest friends.
There was only one problem with all of that. Hochul always was and always will be a part of politics. Back to her days as an Assembly intern, political chromosomes are all over the Hochul DNA.
So when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo asked her last week to join his ticket as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Hochul returned to where she believes she belongs. If she can’t be in Congress – and reapportionment has pretty much determined that – then LG is not a bad gig.
It only makes sense for a natural pol with the “gift” others only covet for connecting with voters. Include former Congressmen Jack Quinn and Tom Reynolds in that category, while old-timers mention the late Mayor Frank Sedita or the late Justice Mike Dillon.
We recall Hochul’s visit to the Manor House senior home in Batavia during the final days of her down-to-the-wire race against Chris Collins in 2012. The then-congresswoman breezed through the dining room as if she was best pals with every resident. And the folks there couldn’t wait to shake her hand.
“I like the things she says and the things she does,” Angie Ilasi, then 98, told The Buffalo News that day. “I trust Hochul.”
Hochul brings all this to Cuomo, even though most observers believed her “independent streak” precluded her selection. With an LG job description headed by making the governor look good, free thinkers need not apply.
Indeed, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer had just appointed Hochul to the vacant county clerk post in 2007 when she blasted his plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. That, according to those who know, sent Spitzer into orbit.
And recall that the Hochul camp desperately sought the popular Cuomo’s help against Assemblywoman Jane Corwin in the tight 2011 special election for Congress. The best the governor offered was a video. That ranked as a major disappointment in the Hochul camp, well-placed sources still say.
The theory then and now was that the Cuomo political operation resented Hochul’s choice to run for Congress, preferring she rid them of a then-county executive thorn named Chris Collins, who was making noise about running for governor.
Now, if the Cuomo-Hochul ticket prevails in November, Hochul will provide oh-so-fascinating fodder for Albany’s “political observers.” Will she fall into line like many of her predecessors? Or follow her independent streak like former LGs Mary Anne Krupsak, Al DelBello, Mario Cuomo or Betsy McCaughey?
For now, Cuomo can take advantage of all Hochul brings to his re-election effort. She provides balance as a woman and upstater and popularity that sources say reaches the stratosphere in recent polling. In addition, Hochul provides a “twofer” because she is so well-known in both Buffalo and Rochester.
It all feeds Cuomo’s obsession with winning Western New York – the one region of the state where he failed in 2010.
Just about a year ago, the Politics Column and a Politics Now video on buffalonews.com speculated about Hochul’s move to a waterfront condo in the City of Buffalo. And for no other reason than to have some fun, wondered if the move positioned her for a mayoral candidacy in 2017.
The bank vice president was not amused, and in no uncertain terms let the Politics Column have it. Not surprisingly, she noted that “I really love my job.”
That race now appears unlikely. But the column also quoted a close Hochul friend as predicting “she has one more race in her.”
We hit that part right. Now we amend to say Hochul looks forward to “at least” one more race.