Vice President John Nance Garner once supposedly exclaimed that his job was “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” If that’s true, you just need a mug for New York’s lieutenant governor.
Being New York’s lieutenant governor is typically thankless - and unless you enjoy racking up frequent-flier miles from Massena to Montauk, there’s a painful amount of traveling within the confines of just one state.
While we can point to the accidental governorship of David Paterson as an example of when the job truly mattered, there are plenty more Stan Lundines and Mary Donohues – loyal servants who toiled away for years for a governor and were never seen in elected office again.
So it’s on this historical landscape of obscurity that we see a potential challenge to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul from Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams.
With no Democrat yet emerging to challenge Governor Cuomo in a primary, Williams is trying to punch within his political weight class and take on Hochul, Cuomo’s deputy, who is little known outside of Western New York, which she represented in Congress for less than one term.
While Williams is hardly a household name in New York City, he has been elected three times to office in Brooklyn, the county that holds the most Democrats in the state and potentially providing him a base of support on Primary Day.
And while both Hochul and Williams are still playing nice when it comes to talking about each other, it seems inevitable that this race will get tougher. It’s likely hard for Governor Cuomo to imagine waking up every morning in a third term and having to deal with a lieutenant governor who’s not walking in lockstep with him.
We’ve had governors – including Cuomo’s father – who have had to deal with lieutenants who they haven’t hand-picked – resulting in palace intrigues that have been highly-entertaining for political observers and deeply annoying for the governors themselves.
If he wants Hochul to remain as his deputy, Cuomo may need to figure out a way to kneecap Williams with a quiet leg sweep rather than a direct attack. In a time that the governor is preaching Democratic unity in the State Senate, he likely can’t afford to be directly taking on a rising African-American star in his own party.
While few people realize that the governor’s running mate has to run separately from him on Primary Day, it’s a political fact that more New Yorkers will likely learn before this September. Meanwhile, expect to see Kathy Hochul on a Bronx walking tour and Jumaane Williams getting a crash-course in Buffalo cuisine.