Hochul, now as lieutenant governor, gives Orleans Democrats thanks

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 May 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, left, is pictured with Jeanne Crane on Thursday evening at dinner in Hochul’s honor at Tillman’s Village Inn.

GAINES – Kathy Hochul was a long-shot candidate in 2011 when she ran for Congress in a overwhelmingly Republican district. She pulled off the upset win versus Jane Corwin in that special election.

Hochul said Democrats in rural areas such as Orleans County were essential in that victory.

“Representing you was one of the highest honors of my life,” said Thursday during a dinner at Tillman’s Village Inn.

The Orleans County Democratic Party put on the dinner for Hochul. She was knocked out of Congress in November 2012 by Chris Collins. The district was redrawn through redistricting, stacking more Republicans in the 27th District.

Hochul, after working as vice president of governmental relations for M&T Bank Corp., was picked as lieutenant governor by Andrew Cuomo. That team was elected state-wide this past November. Hochul said she is thankful for the chance to return to public service.

Hochul addresses about 100 people at the dinner on Thursday, including Helen Zelazny, left, and Jesse Green, right.

Thursday was Hochul’s second time in Orleans County since the election. She also was in Albion on Feb. 18 to discuss the governor’s “Opportunity Agenda” and to meet with local officials, including the County Legislature.

“I know we have some challenges here,” Hochul told about 100 people at Thursday’s dinner.

She said the governor is devoting state resources to rural communities, particularly with $500 million in a broadband initiative to bring high-speed Internet throughout the state by 2018, including the rural pockets of New York.

“That will be a game changer for Orleans County,” Hochul said. “It is coming. It will be ready in New York as we compete with other states.”

The governor also wants to work with local governments to improve roads and bridges, and continue support for the state’s agricultural industry, Hochul said.

Hochul has also been busy around the state pushing a policy to combat sexual assaults on college campuses. She and Gov. Cuomo also have been advocating for equal pay for equal work, an effort to boost the pay for women who do the same jobs as men.

Local Democrats turned out for the dinner with Kathy Hochul.

Orleans County is solid Republican territory, with Republicans holding a 2 to 1 advantage in enrollment over Democrats.

In the governor’s election, Orleans County voters gave Rob Astorino the strongest support for governor of any county in the state except for one. The 73.4 percent support for Astorino among Orleans County voters was only topped by Wyoming County, which gave him 76.0 percent of the vote for governor.

Jeanne Crane, the Orleans County Democratic Party chairwoman, admitted it is difficult for a Democrat to win in Orleans County. Hochul has proven a Democrat can enjoy success in the rural county.

“It’s important that we as Democrats have to reach out to all of Orleans County, including the Republicans and Conservatives, because we need everyone if we are going to win,” Crane said.

Hochul is a “personable person” with a work ethic, Crane said.

Hochul said she enjoys being away from the state capital and connecting with people outside of Albany.

The lieutenant governor’s presence in Orleans, and other rural counties, shows Democratic Party leaders care about those communities, Crane said.

“We don’t have the finances or the big number of voters, but they are showing that someone does care,” Crane said. “Usually people don’t come out to see the rural counties.”

Hochul said she enjoys meeting with people. When she was campaigning, it was often at diners and community events.

“I know what is in their hearts and minds because they told me,” she said.

Hochul said she intends to be an advocate for Orleans and she won’t be a stranger.

“I will always treasure our friendships,” Hochul told the group of Democrats.