The lieutenant governor joined the show three times in 2018, defining her role and discussing her politics.


Kathy Hochul.

When Gov. Nelson Rockefeller quit Albany to lead a presidential commission in 1973, Lt. Gov. Malcolm Wilson—who had served in the State Assembly for nearly 20 years before becoming Rocky’s lieutenant—took charge. After a prostitution scandal sidelined Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2008, he was succeeded by Lt. Gov. David Paterson, a 21-year veteran of the State Senate.

Should Gov. Andrew Cuomo leave office early because of the swirl of scandals enveloping his administration, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would become the chief executive of the country’s fourth-largest state. Compared with the previous two lieutenants who ascended to the top job in Albany, Hochul is a somewhat lesser-known quantity in Albany.

After serving on the Hamburg Town Board for 13 years, she was the Erie County clerk for four years and served about 18 months in Congress before being tapped in 2014 to replace Bob Duffy, Cuomo’s first lieutenant governor, on the Democratic ticket.

That was the year progressive academic Zephyr Teachout challenged Cuomo; Teachout’s running mate, Timothy Wu, won just shy of 40 percent of the vote against Hochul—substantially better than Teachout did.

Wu was likely helped by elements of Hochul’s political biography that did not play well outside of Erie County: She’d pledged to resist Spitzer’s plan to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses and had an A rating from the National Rifle Association. Hochul dismissed those concerns during the 2014 election by saying she would not be a policymaker as lieutenant governor.

Since then, Hochul’s most visible role has often been to handle the introductions ahead of Cuomo’s state-of-the-state speeches in Albany. She’s also traveled around the state to deliver the regional state-of-the-state presentations, and been a loyal surrogate to the governor in other venues. When the balance of power in the State Senate split evenly between Republicans and Democrats in 2018, Hochul’s theoretical (if constitutionally murky) ability to cast a tie-breaking vote led to some procedural drama. She talked about the episode with the Max & Murphy podcast:

Hochul discusses her tie-breaking role

In her 2018 reelection primary, when actress and advocate Cynthia Nixon challenged her boss, Hochul faced City Councilmember Jumaane Williams. During another appearance on Max & Murphy (which had by then become a WBAI program), Hochul rejected Williams’ pitch that the lieutenant governor could be a check on Cuomo’s enormous power. “That is a defining difference in how I view my role, as a partner to the governor—to be an ally of his, to get things done for the people of the state of New York, as opposed to an adversarial role,” she said.

Sept. 5, 2018: Hochul on her re-election bid

On Primary Day, Hochul scored an even narrower victory than four years earlier, winning 53-47, even though Cuomo’s winning margin was nearly identical to what he’d notched in 2014.

As 2018 wound down, Hochul returned to Max & Murphy again. Asked about New York State’s continuing population loss—its shedding of 48,000 people between 2017 and 2018 was the biggest decline of any state—she attributed it partly to the weather. Older New Yorkers, she said, left the state seeking warmer climates. “They’d rather live in sunny Florida,” she said. “That’s just a statement of fact.”

Dec. 20, 2018: Hochul previews Cuomo’s third term

At the time, Cuomo had recently appointed Hochul to co-chair a task force on child-care availability. The task force was quiet through 2019 but early last year was aiming to deliver a report for implementation in 2021. The COVID-19 crisis introduced new challenges for child are, and Hochul was the public face of the Cuomo administration’s efforts to use federal funds to bolster child-care services.