CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. - Former U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, selected in May as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's running mate in the 2014 election, vowed on Sunday to make herself more publicly available, following 2 On Your Side reports that she had appeared at events in Western New York unannounced and without notification from a public schedule.
"It's a long way until November. There's plenty of time for talking to the media, and I plan to be very accessible," Hochul said. "So it's not a problem."
Hochul's office did finally prepare a public schedule last week, which included an appearance at the Pulaski Day Parade in Cheektowaga on Sunday. Before marching in the parade, Hochul explained she's spent the past few months traveling the state to prepare her for the campaign.
"But again, it's only July, and the election's in November," Hochul said. "We're gonna be out all over the place."
Cuomo and Hochul face a Democratic primary challenge from law professor Zephyr Teachout. However, polls for a general election show Cuomo would enjoy a 35-point advantage over Republican challenger Rob Astorino.
Astorino, the Westchester County Executive from downstate New York, also made the trip to Western New York for the Pulaski Day Parade.
"I don't watch the polls at this point. It really is no big deal," Astorino said. "This is the summertime, where we get out and about, we do the retail politicking, we start raising money, we put the seeds in the ground. And then in the fall, when everyone starts paying attention, is when things really start to change."
Before the parade, Astorino and Hochul stood side-by-side along with other politicians— and that's significant because Hochul sparred with Astorino almost immediately after Cuomo selected her as his running mate. Astorino had called Cuomo's Billion to Buffalo economic plan "unsustainable," so Hochul said he'd declared "war on Buffalo."
The Buffalo Billion plan, which intends to invest a full billion dollars in the Western New York economy, helped fund the South Buffalo Riverbend project. Last month, an influential company owned by Elon Musk bought one of the companies involved in that project and now plans to make Buffalo home to perhaps the largest solar manufacturing plant in the entire world.
But despite that announcement, which could lead to more than 1,000 jobs in this region, Astorino said Sunday that he still considers the heavy government spending a troublesome economic policy.
"Good, but you know what, those same people are going to be leaving here in five or 10 years, and those buildings will be half-empty in five to ten years," Astorino said, "if we don't fix the problems right now coming out of Albany."
Hochul had an immediate response to that criticism of the Buffalo Billion.
"I think you do that at your own peril," Hochul said. "You don't have to go far in Western New York to see the fruits of the governor's sincere commitment to bringing back an area that had been long forgotten."
Astorino also challenged Cuomo to eight regional debates, including one in Western New York.
"And if the governor doesn't have an hour to do that, he should just tell people why he's afraid, why he's going to be a coward on that." Astorino said. "Because I think it's very important that we both talk about what to do for Western New York going forward.
Hochul declined to comment on the debate, saying "that's for them to decide."