Thursday, December 18, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: Kathy Hochul's Political Evolution to Statewide Candidate

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While her running mate was helping settle the Long Island Rail Road contract dispute yesterday, Kathy Hochul was actually out and about, holding a press conference with whatever remaining reporters weren't covering the labor truce -- and then sitting down with NY1's Errol Louis in an interview that was fascinating and sometimes illuminating.

For much of the early part of the summer, Hochul has avoided the press while it seemed that she was quietly trying to smooth over relations with Latinos in the Democratic party who didn't love her fight against a plan to give undocumented immigrants driver's licenses when she was Erie County clerk in 2007. Last night, Hochul spoke at length for the first time about why she had so many problems with the program that has been proposed by then-Governor Eliot Spitzer.

"I would have been required as the county clerk, to give a driver's license to anyone who comes in there, regardless of their documentation...and what could stop them from getting on an airplane, using that identification - flying to Washington, flying to New York city - we know what happens then."

"As much as I value individual rights, I also as an elected official was concerned about national security, and I have to say, this was validated when I went to Congress and became a member of the Homeland Security Committee, '' she said.

Asked by Louis if her views have changed, Hochul replied: " I'm not sure what's changed in the dynamic." While she also said she'd meet with Latino officials who support the program, it hardly seems that her position has "evolved" – as some Latino officials had insisted over the last month.

And are Hochul's views any different than the governor's – who has hardly talked about reviving Spitzer's driver's plan?

Hochul's other flashpoint – gun control – does seem to have undergone a Darwinian evolution, though. While she defended getting and trumpeting the NRA's endorsement in 2012 when she was up for re-election, Hochul said she supports the governor's gun control measure and also wanted Congress to do something – anything – after the Sandy Hook massacre.

"I think that what I saw happen after Sandy Hook. After the influence that was exerted on members of Congress to not even support background checks? That was a low point in the Congress."

Echoing Senator Kirsten Gillibrand – whose views on guns sound a lot different now that she's no longer an upstate Congresswoman – Hochul said of her NRA endorsement: "I was simply reflecting the interest of my district at that time."

All of this shows how Hochul was able to get elected to Congress in a Republican region -- and still almost managed to get re-elected after her district was redrawn to become the reddest spot on New York's Congressional map.

She's a canny politician who's personable and smart and it's unclear why she's been in deep cover over the last two months. The Cuomo team's insistence on keeping her far from the press was turning her into Sarah Palin on the Hudson when it's clear that she's a different kind of political creature – evolution or not.

Bob Hardt

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