The Real News About Kathy Hochul Being New York State Governor

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You’ve probably read the headlines about Kathy Hochul “making history” by becoming the first woman to hold the position of New York State Governor.

If you’re like me, you cringe every time you see the appellation “first” applied to anyone. With the clear exception of sporting events, landing on the moon, and a few others, the term “first” seems more like a back-handed compliment. In today’s world of woke, it makes people wonder if “token” wouldn’t be a better description.

And that’s not fair.

I know. I’ve lived with this designation. The “first” Italian-American to do this… The “first” Catholic to do that… The “first” graduate of Gates-Chili high school to…

Each time, despite the apparent good intentions of various speakers of those words, it always felt condescending.

While I’m proud of my heritage, I didn’t want to be remembered merely as an Italian-American, but as a regular American who did good. While I have no problem boasting of my strong faith, what does my religion have to do with my involvement in secular activities?

And, oh boy, did the Gates-Chili thing ever make me feel like a token. It was like I was on display among those far superior to me. This tainted any real achievement I may have attained. It was more “Isn’t it amazing how a low life like him can behave in such a fine manner.”

Yeah, nothing like that to boost your self-esteem.

(Truth be told, it was an absolutely fine motivator. And, in the end, it all worked out for the best. At least for me and those who genuinely supported me. Not so much for those snobs who soon discovered they weren’t as superior as they had been raised to believe.)

Given this, you might wonder if Kathy Hochul isn’t feeling the same way. Do you think she really wants to be remembered as the first female New York State Governor, or would she rather be remembered as the Governor that tackled a longstanding problem and implemented an enduring solution?

Well, here’s hoping it’s the latter, because we might all be better off if it is.

A more interesting “first” for Kathy Hochul isn’t a first at all. It’s more of a “first in a long time.”

Do you realize Kathy Hochul is the first New York State Governor from the Greater Western New York Region in more than a century?

Until Kathy Hochul, the last New York State Governor from our region (sort of) was Horace White, who served for three months at the end of 1910. Like Hochul, White took over the governor’s mansion when his predecessor left before his term expired. Unlike Hochul’s predecessor, who resigned in disgrace, White’s predecessor, Charles Evans Hughes, resigned his New York State post when he was appointed to the United States Supreme Court.

You’ll notice Horace White was “sort of” from our region. Although, again like Hochul, he was born in Buffalo, he spent the bulk of his life in Syracuse, where he is buried. So, if you’re a stickler, you might prefer to refer to him as a “Central New Yorker.”

Frank Higgins of Allegany County was the last true New York State Governor from the Greater Western New York region. He served one term from 1905-1906 but was ill for most of the time. He died six months after leaving office.

Think about it. In the early part of the 20th Century, though it pales in size compared to New York City, Buffalo was still one of the 10 largest cities in the United States. At late as July 1951, when Buffalo was still the 15th largest city in America, Fortune Magazine featured it on its cover, said of it, “Buffalo flourishes like ivy at a bottles neck.”

It’s not as though we have not produced great leaders. During the last hundred years, when no one from the Greater Western New York Region qualified to rise to the seat of Governor of New York State, we have had natives good enough to (to name a few): Act as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (John Roberts); Serve as the Secretary of Labor (Tom Perez); and, Hold the position of Commissioner of the National Football League (Roger Goodell).

And that doesn’t include those on the periphery of power. These people include Jack Kemp (Vice President candidate), William Donovan (CIA creator), and Manly Fleischmann (War Production Administrator during the Korean War).

Do you see the problem here? Within our own state, the Greater Western New York Region has been a mere afterthought. It’s seen as a gratuitous “ticket balancer” by downstate politicians seeking the Governorship.

How can Hochul help solve this long-term problem in an enduring way? Maybe she can take a page from Reuben Fenton, a Democrat born in Chautauqua County who bucked his own party. While serving in Congress as a Democrat, he helped create the Republican Party. Afterwards, Abraham Lincoln tapped him to run for Governor of New York.

Come to think of it, Grover Cleveland, former Erie County Sheriff and Buffalo mayor who held the post of New York State Governor before becoming President of the United States, did the same thing when he took on the New York City Democrats and their Tammany Hall bloc.

If Hochul wants history to remember her for anything other than being a token who happened to have had the privilege of being born with the check box de jour of today’s woke crowd, perhaps she too can take on her own party.

She is in a position to help unchain the Greater Western New York Region. There’s no problem with New York City and Albany doing things that are best for them. We just want to be allowed to do things that are best for us.

Maybe the greatest achievement Kathy Hochul can attain is seeing the Greater Western New York Region displayed on a truly complimentary cover story in Fortune Magazine.

That is an achievement that will endure through the generations. It will make Hochul stand out in the history books. Heck, she can even pick a New York City Lieutenant Governor if it’ll help make this happen.


  1. Bravo Chris! Great article. Let’s hope our new Governor stands out as you describe!

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