ENG: Kathleen Courtney "Kathy" Hochul (born August 27, 1958) is a past U.S. Representative, last serving New York's 26th congressional district from June 1, 2011 to January 3, 2013. She prevailed in the four-candidate special election of May 24, 2011, to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Republican Chris Lee, and was the first Democrat to represent the district in 40 years.
Hochul served as the County Clerk of Erie County, New York from 2007 until 2011, when she assumed her seat in Congress. Previously, she was a deputy county clerk, a member of the Hamburg town board, a practicing attorney, and a legislative aide.
Hochul was defeated for re-election by Republican former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, after being redistricted to the 27th district.
Early life, education, and pre-congressional career
Hochul was born Kathleen Courtney, the second oldest of the six children of John Courtney, then a college student and clerical worker, and Pat Courtney, a homemaker. Hochul's family struggled financially during her early years and for a time lived in a trailer near a steel plant. By the time Hochul was in college, however, her father was working for the information technology company which he later headed.
Hochul became politically active during her college years at Syracuse University, leading a boycott of the student bookstore over high prices and an unsuccessful effort to name the university stadium after running back Ernie Davis, an alumnus, instead of the Carrier Corporation.
She received her B.A. degree from Syracuse in 1980 and her law degree from the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in 1984.
After graduating from law school, Hochul began working for a high-powered Washington D.C. law firm, but found the work unsatisfying. She then worked on Capitol Hill as a legal counsel-legislative assistant to U.S.
Representative John LaFalce and U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan, and for the New York State Assembly, before seeking elected office.
She became involved in local issues as a booster of small businesses who tried to counteract the effect of Walmart stores. She was elected as the Democratic and Conservative Party candidate to the Hamburg in November 1994. While on the town board, she led efforts to remove toll barriers on parts of the New York State Thruway system.
In May 2003, Erie County clerk David Swarts appointed Hochul as his deputy clerk. When Swarts left office in 2007, Governor Eliot Spitzer appointed Hochul to fill the post.
Though she had been appointed county clerk by Spitzer, she opposed Spitzer's proposal to allow illegal immigrants to apply for a driver's license without producing a social security card. She said that if the proposal went into effect, she would call the sheriff's office to bring such applicants in for questioning. She was elected later in 2007 to fill the remainder of Swarts' term. She ran for reelection on four ballot lines: Democratic, Conservative, Independence and Working Families Party, defeating Republican Clifton Bergfeld in November 2010 with 80 percent of the vote.
U.S. House of Representatives - 2011 special election
Hochul ran in the four-way special election race of May 24, 2011 to fill the seat in New York's 26th congressional district left vacant by the resignation of Republican Chris Lee.
She was the Democratic Party and Working Families Party nominee. Hochul's residence in Hamburg, just outside the 26th district, became an issue during her campaign, though it did not legally disqualify her from seeking the seat. One month after her victory, she moved into the district, fulfilling a campaign promise.
The Republican and Conservative Party candidate, state legislator Jane Corwin, was at first strongly favored to win in the Republican-leaning district which had sent a Republican to Congress for the previous four decades. A late April poll had Corwin leading Hochul 36-31 percent; independent Tea Party candidate Jack Davis trailed at 23 percent. An early May poll however, gave Hochul a narrow 35-31 lead, and shortly thereafter the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report called the race a "toss-up".
Additional polling in the days immediately preceding the election had Hochul leading by four and six point margins. Additional polling in the days immediately preceding the election had Hochul leading by four- and six-point margins.
In a Washington Post article, it was noted that in the face of a possible upset victory but Hochul, there was already a “full blown spin war” about the meaning of the results. The article went on to say that, for Democrats, the close race was a result of “House Republicans’ budget plan authored by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan — and, in particular, his proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program.” For Republicans, it was the result of millionaire Jack Davis, who spent “millions to pull votes away from Republican Jane Corwin.” The article also stated that something being overlooked was that Hochul was “simply a stronger candidate than Republican Jane Corwin.”
Hochul’s strength stemmed from starting her career as an aide to Senator Daniel Moynihan, who was “one of the most admired politicians in New York history.” She has been described as sweet and earnest. She was described as a successful campaigner, but as someone who can do that by “being not the least bit slick.” Hochul was linked to tangible local accomplishments, like when she “broke with then Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) on license plates for illegal immigrants — and got a write-up in the New York Times for it.”
The seat was viewed as a difficult one to obtain for a Democrat, and “only a really solid campaigner could make it happen.”
Hochul's victory was almost universally viewed as astonishing, given that the district is heavily Republican and that Corwin outspent her almost 2-1.
The campaign featured a number of negative television ads, with nonpartisan FactCheck accusing both sides of "taking liberties with the facts." In particular, FactCheck criticized the Democrats' ads for claiming that the Republican candidate would "essentially end Medicare", even though the plan would leave Medicare intact for current beneficiaries. The organization also faulted the Republicans' for ads portraying Hochul as a puppet of former U.S. House Speaker Pelosi, and for claiming that Hochul planned to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Hochul was endorsed by EMILY's List, a political action committee that supports Democratic women candidates, including those who are pro-choice. She was the fifth largest recipient of EMILY's List funds in 2011, receiving more than $27,000 in bundled donations from the organization. The Democrat and Chronicle endorsed Hochul "for her tenacity and independence", while The Buffalo News endorsed her for her positions on preserving Medicare and her record of streamlining government.
Hochul defeated Corwin 47 to 43 percent in the special election held on May 24, with Jack Davis receiving 9 percent, and Green Party candidate Ian Murphy receiving 1 percent of the vote.
On the day of the election, it was reported that Hochul's impending victory would be “a serious blow to the GOP agenda, and, more specifically, Paul Ryan’s budget plan that would end Medicare as we know it.”
It was also noted that when Democratic strategists were not considering Hochul a serious candidate, "It was Emily’s List and the Working Families Party, a union-backed grassroots party, that kept talking up Hochul—who ran on the third party’s ballot line, taking advantage of New York’s fusion law, which allows crossendorsements." Hochul achieved success widely due to her efforts in battling the Republican budget, which aimed to makes cuts to Medicaid and privatize Social Security.
Because her victory came in a special election and because it was an upset win that turned on a major issue, Hochul received major national and even international coverage. She has reportedly already established herself as an important player in Congress.
Over her years in local politics, Hochul had built reputation for focusing on local issues that mattered to her constituents and that make a difference to their pocketbooks. Since joining Congress, she has voted on every bill that has come before the House.
In Hochul's first few weeks in office, she co-sponsored a couple bills with Brian Cogan to help streamline the passport acquisition process. She also met with the President about the economy and job creation and introduced a motion on the House to restore the Republican cuts to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. She also quickly started looking for areas to reduce the deficit, open to reducing Medicaid spending, as long as it wasn't in the form of block grants offered to states, as proposed in the GOP budget blueprint. She also had spoken with President Obama about ending tax breaks for oil companies and protecting small businesses.
While campaigning for Congress, Hochul defined herself as an "independent Democrat". In an interview with the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, she cited as examples of her independence her opposition to Spitzer's drivers' license program for illegal immigrants and her opposition to Governor David Paterson's proposal in 2010 to raise revenue by requiring all vehicle owners to buy new license plates.
Hochul lost her re-election bid to Collins by a 51% to 49% margin.
Hochul is a founder and a member of the Board of Directors of Kathleen Mary House, a transitional home for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. She was also co-founder of the Village Action Coalition, and a member of the Board of Trustees at Immaculata Academy in Hamburg.
She is married to William Hochul, who serves as the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York. They reside in Snyder, New York, and are the parents of two children, William and Caitlin.
January 14, 2013