State Watch

Hochul makes New York the 31st state to have had a female governor

Kathy Hochul is sworn in as New York governor
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When Kathy Hochul (D) took her oath of office to succeed former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) shortly after midnight Tuesday, she became the 57th person — and the first woman — in New York’s nearly 250-year history to hold the state’s top office.

Hochul becomes the ninth female governor in office today, matching the all-time high set three times in the last two decades. Nine women previously held their states’ top offices in 2004, 2007 and 2019.

Today, Hochul joins the governors of Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and South Dakota, all of whom are women.

She is one of four — along with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) — to have ascended to the top office when their predecessors stepped down. 

Her ascension leaves 19 states that have never had a female governor, according to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. The states that have never been run by a woman are a cross-regional, cross-party set that includes some of the nation’s most populous states, like California, Florida and Georgia, and some of its least populous, like North Dakota, West Virginia and Idaho. 

Hochul’s rise comes after Cuomo resigned under pressure from former allies in the state legislature, after a report from Attorney General Letitia James (D) — a potential gubernatorial contender herself — found credible sexual harassment allegations leveled by multiple women over the course of Cuomo’s decade in office.

It is not Hochul’s first experience taking over for a man undone by his own behavior: She won a special election to Congress in 2011 after her predecessor, Rep. Chris Lee (R), acknowledged soliciting sex from a woman on Craigslist. 

The number of female governors is likely to change, and potentially set a new record, after next year’s midterm elections.

Oregon’s Brown faces term limits; Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D), Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) are all likely to face serious challenges as they run for reelection. 

At the same time, women are already lining up to run for top offices. Several of the leading contenders to replace retiring Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), on both the Democratic and Republican sides, are women. The two leading Republicans vying to succeed Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) are women. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) faces a tough Democratic primary in her bid to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) faces a primary challenge from his own lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin (R). Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) is said to be considering a run for the top office, while Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has not decided whether to seek a third term. And several women are considering bids in New Hampshire, where Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is contemplating a run for a U.S. Senate seat.

New York appears to have set another record with Hochul’s rise to power: She will be replaced as lieutenant governor by Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate president — which makes New York the first state to have women in the top two positions.

That record is only temporary, though: Stewart-Cousins, who has become a powerful force in Albany in her own right, holds the No. 2 slot on a temporary basis. Hochul, who has said she will run for governor next year, will choose her own running mate in the coming months.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Asa Hutchinson Chris Sununu Doug Ducey Gretchen Whitmer Janet Mills Kate Brown Kay Ivey Michelle Lujan Grisham Ron DeSantis

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