But everything changed after she rose to lieutenant governor of
It's also a matter of political survival for Hochul, who at 60 faces yet another daunting challenge in a career spanning 11 elections. In a race nobody labels a sure thing,
That's why a few days ago she ventured into Williams' home turf of
It is here in
Hochul recognizes Williams' serious threat. A late
"People who have written me off saying it can't be done because I'm from
Hochul attempted to connect with her mostly Latino audience in a "Me llamo
Hochul has polished her style over the years, connecting one-on-one in
"I'm no stranger to
Here in downtown
She even underscored her 2012 congressional loss to Republican
"There were too many issues where I was too closely aligned with the Democratic Party and that sent me packing," she said, wearing her loss in an overwhelmingly Republican district as a badge of honor in uber-blue
Most of those in the audience liked what they see in Hochul.
"I believe Kathy has more to offer because of her experience -- and her heart," said
After the SUV wound to the
"I stood up for
She ticked off the same progressive bullet points she and Cuomo have echoed across the campaign trail this primary season as they battle opponents who claim neither are "progressive enough."
"We are changing peoples' lives with policies that are progressive," she said, launching into a speech on state efforts allowing people in gentrifying neighborhoods like Park Slope to stay in their homes.
"That is so true," said a woman preparing the counter for the senior lunch to follow.
Hochul spoke of her Irish immigrant grandparents, of a trailer park childhood before her father became a successful information technology pioneer, and of her and Cuomo's resolve to blunt
And she continually emphasized her record on women's issues. For a time, she dedicated a good chunk of her public appearances to college campuses in support of the state's new policies against sexual assault. It has become a signature issue for Hochul, as is her defense of abortion and LGBT rights.
"I will continue to fight for women's reproductive health issues," he said. "If the
He labeled her
"He's a career politician and that has some drawbacks," she said. "I know he has to work through the system, but that's not to the benefit of the citizens of
Everywhere Hochul campaigns this election year, she repeats her "governor and I" mantra. A lieutenant governor opposing the state's chief executive (as Williams proposes) defies logic, she says, and fails to serve the state's citizens.
But Williams' threat to Hochul, fueled by the power of millions of
Cuomo offered only half-hearted support for his running mate during his last visit to
"Many, many people say she will be a stronger candidate than
Williams, meanwhile, is carving out his own campaign rationale. He sees the post as "the people's'" representative.
"I never discount the power of a bully pulpit," he told The News during a June stop in
Williams is supporting Nixon for governor and she wants him as her second-in-command. Both appear on the influential Working Families line.
Along with a host of local officials around the state, three state legislators in
"He's been a leader in the city and he's someone I believe in," Epstein said. "It was an easy decision on my part."
The assemblyman does not believe Hochul has distinguished herself.
"Ribbon cuttings are important, but what policies are you pushing to benefit our city and state?" he asked. "She has not answered that question for me."
Indeed, Hochul confounds even some supporters with different views from her days as county clerk or even congresswoman now that she occupies a statewide stage in liberal
"The driver's license issue popped at that time and was reflecting the interests of that community at that time," she says now. "But it's important to know that I've been committed to helping immigrants integrate into society my entire life. One issue does not take away from that."
"I have always held dear to my heart Democratic values," she adds. "I also believe society evolves."
Indeed, Hochul's ads running on downstate airwaves emphasize her liberal views, criticizing Williams for saying at one time that he viewed marriage only as between a man and a woman and emphasizing her progressive credentials. And in another example of her downstate focus during the primary, the ads run only in the
She says they are working.
"So when I walk into senior centers now compared to a few months ago, people say: 'There's
She looked around her Park Slope audience and pronounced it "only a small sampling of the support I've received" in vote-rich
"I'm not a stranger to these communities," she says. "Women's rights groups. LGBT causes. They all know me. That is what has really propelled me to be in a better position. I've invested the time.
I know their issues. I've walked their street and they know me.
"I've never thought it would be easy," she adds. "I knew it would be a challenge, but I've embraced it."
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