What’s next for Kathy Hochul?

By Richard Lee

“If you win an election by one vote, it’s a landslide.”

That was one of the many mantras that Jack Fay, a New Jersey political veteran, shared when my colleagues and I – all of us more than 20 years his junior – found ourselves tasked with running a municipal government in the Garden State in 1992 for a mayor who was elected with just 34% of the vote..

Although Jack’s statement on elections was an obvious exaggeration, the thought behind the comment came from his years of political experience.

The world of politics moves quickly, and memories can be short. If politicians play their cards right, the margin of an election victory may not matter the next time they run for office. What matters is that they won – and how they use that victory to strengthen their political careers.

Jack’s words came to mind this week after Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Lee Zeldin in New York’s gubernatorial election.

Hochul won by more than five percentage points, a comfortable margin in most elections — but not in a blue state such as New York. Some of the early reactions to Hochul’s victory have not been celebratory. We hear that her win was too narrow, that her performance on Election Day hurt other Democratic candidates, that the campaign she ran was lackluster and more.

Such points have some validity, but the further we get from Nov. 8, the further they will be from voters’ minds. We do not know what plans Kathy Hochul has for her political future, but with the right spin, she could find a place on the national stage – not necessarily as a candidate but as one of the public faces of the Democratic Party. Here is how that spin might look:

I went head-to-head with a pro-Trump candidate and won. The Republican Party sent some of its brightest stars to New York to rally voters, and I still won. I am the first elected woman governor of New York; I have national experience as a member of Congress, and I have a story to tell about keeping New York on track after becoming governor when Andrew Cuomo resigned.

For now, Kathy Hochul has a job to do, and that job is to run New York State. But politics also is about looking ahead. As The West Wing’s President Bartlet was fond of saying, “What’s next?”

Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, covered politics and government as a reporter and later served as Deputy Director of Communication for two New Jersey governors. Click here to read more of Lee’s On the Road to Albany columns, and follow the Jandoli Institute on Twitter and Facebook.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, On the Road to Albany, Politics, richleeonline

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