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- The state constitution gives the full powers and duties of the governorship to a lieutenant governor who becomes governor after a resignation.
- There is no special election for governor following a resignation. The lieutenant governor serves the remainder of the term until the next general election.
Tom Suozzi, a Long Island congressman who plans to run in the Democratic primary for governor, has been calling Gov. Kathy Hochul "interim Governor."
In a tweet on Jan. 4, Suozzi said: "With crime surging across NYS, this morning I will call on the interim Governor to develop a comprehensive public safety plan to stem the violence."
He also used the term in a statement on Dec. 23, saying that Hochul didn’t have a plan to fight the COVID surge.
Hochul was elected lieutenant governor in 2014 and 2018 after facing primary challengers both times. She became governor after Andrew Cuomo resigned amid scandal in August. Given Hochul’s path to the governorship, we wondered if there is any truth to Suozzi’s claim.
Four experts on the New York state constitution told us that there are no abbreviations or modifications on the powers and duties of lieutenant governors who become governor after their predecessors resign. The New York State Constitution recognizes her as governor, fully and completely.
Peter J. Galie, an emeritus professor of political science at Canisius College who has written extensively on the state constitution, says that when the governor resigns, the lieutenant governor becomes governor. "Period. No acting, no interim," Galie said.
Article IV, Sect. 5, states: "In case of the removal of the governor from office or of his or her death or resignation, the lieutenant-governor shall become governor for the remainder of the term."
The same section says that in periods where the governor cannot perform the duties of the office, in cases such as impeachment, travel, or illness, the lieutenant governor will "act as governor." But there is no qualifier such as "act as governor" in the case of Hochul’s situation.
We reached out to Christopher Bopst, a partner at the Buffalo law firm Wilder & Linneball and co-author of books about the New York State Constitution.
Interim implies that there will be a special election for the governor’s office, but that is not the case when a lieutenant governor becomes governor in New York, Bopst said. Hochul is filling out the remainder of the term that Cuomo was elected to in 2018. Cuomo resigned in the third year of his term, but even in the case of a governor-elect who declined to or couldn't take office after an election but before the term began, the lieutenant governor would serve the full four-year term, he said.
Suozzi’s campaign told us that voters never elected Hochul governor.
"The fact is that voters have not elected Kathy Hochul as their governor and no matter how you slice it, until New Yorkers have their say at the ballot box she is serving in an interim capacity," said Kim Devlin, senior advisor to Suozzi’s campaign.
Suozzi has been calling Gov. Kathy Hochul "interim governor."
Suozzi’s team told us that Hochul is an interim governor because she was not elected as governor and is serving in an interim capacity until the next election.
Hochul is interim governor only to the extent that any other governor is "interim" - they all serve fixed terms and are subject to election, Bopst said.
While political campaigns employ colorful language to persuade voters and discount their rivals, using "interim" to describe Hochul’s governorship can be misleading. The New York State Constitution does not make any modifications or qualifications on lieutenant governors who become governor after a vacancy. The newly ascended governor has the full powers and duties granted to all governors.
Nobody called Theodore Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson interim presidents when they assumed office.
The state constitution is clear that Hochul shouldn’t be described that way either.
We give Suozzi’s statement a Pants on Fire rating.
Twitter, tweet, @Tom_Suozzi, Jan. 4, 2022.
Twitter, tweet, @morganfmckay, Dec. 23, 2021.
Phone conversation, Christopher Bopst, partner at Wilder & Linneball, LLP, Jan. 4, 2022.
New York State Constitution, Article 4, Section 5, via nysenate.gov. Accessed Jan. 5, 2022.
Email conversation, James A. Gardner, Bridget and Thomas Black SUNY Distinguished Professor of Law, Research Professor of Political Science, University at Buffalo School of Law, Jan. 4, 2022.
Phone conversation, Patrick Woods, deputy director, Government Law Center, Albany Law School, Jan. 4, 2022.
Phone, email conversations, Kim Devlin, senior advisor, Suozzi for New York campaign, Jan. 5, 2022.
Phone conversation, Peter J. Galie, emeritus professor of political science, Canisius College, Jan. 5, 2022.
Rolling Stone, "Cuomo to Resign Following Sexual Misconduct Report. Hochul to Become New York’s First Female Governor," Aug. 10, 2021. Accessed Jan. 5, 2022.
Bloomberg, "New York’s First Female Governor Must Clean Up After Cuomo Fallout," Aug. 10, 2021. Accessed Jan. 5, 2022.
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