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Scrutiny of Hochul's political career rises with elevated role

She's changed positions through the years on some issues, including the Green Light Law.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — When Kathy Hochul starts to formally serve as New York State governor, she will probably be challenged over some of her past political viewpoints. 

For example, a question surfaced during Hochul's news conference in Albany about her changing position on the Green Light Law for undocumented immigrants, which runs back to her days as Erie County Clerk.

Thruway tolls were Hamburg Councilwoman Kathy Hochul's target back in the 90s. Then as Erie County Clerk, she stepped into that state Green Light Law debate with the short-lived Spitzer Administration, and since then she had to carefully tack around tricky issues such as abortion as a member of Congress in what was a very Republican 26th District before redistricting.   

And now as lieutenant governor, she touted the Cuomo Administration achievement list on minimum wage, child care, and clean green energy. 

Again, there were no policy statements on Wednesday but she did use the word progressive which is applied as a label to some more left wing elements of the Democratic Party in New York City.

University at Buffalo political science professor Dr. Jacob Neiheisel points out: "Her career has been one in which she is very good at reaching her constituents, and as her constituency has shifted, her politics have shifted. And this isn't some kind of claim of flip-flopping, although I'm sure it will be framed as that from some quarters. That's just knowing your audience, it's knowing who you represent."

But it can also be a political minefield, which Hochul must steer through if she decides to run for governor in 2022, especially with other potential Democratic candidates in the wings.

Neiheisel said: "There's going to be a lot of attacks that look at her own political background and says you know you represented New York 26 as someone who was fairly centrist if not right of the political center. Now you want to represent a state that has moved in a leftward direction. How are you going to do that?  And so she's immediately going to be hit with those kinds of questions really from presumably primary challengers."