ALBANY - On the campaign trail, Kathy Hochul has been the face of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's efforts to create a Women's Equality Party ballot line in the fall election, emphasizing Democrats' support for abortion rights and trying to use it against Republicans.
It's been one of the themes of her candidacy for lieutenant governor. That and ignoring criticism by her rival in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, Columbia University professor Tim Wu.
Cuomo chose Hochul, who served 19 months as a Buffalo congresswoman and later headed government relations for M&T Bank, to be his running mate at the party's convention in May. She was seen as filling two political needs for Cuomo.
She kept the Democratic ticket from being all-male. And she provided name recognition in Western New York, the area some Democrats say Cuomo is consumed with winning this year, after losing it in 2010. Since taking office, he's traveled there often, pushed economic plans and even gotten involved in the Buffalo Bills football team's ownership and stadium issues.
Hochul's itinerary for the past month shows she's split time between Western New York and New York City; the latter is key in the primary.
Lately, she's focused on promoting the Women's Equality Party, an alternative ballot line Democrats created for the November election. (State election laws allow such machinations; GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has a Stop Common Core line to tap into anger about academic testing.)
The maneuver is about trying to make abortion rights a campaign issue and reminding New Yorkers who favor those rights, especially Republicans, about the differences between Cuomo and Astorino. Cuomo had unsuccessfully pushed the State Legislature for a "women's equality" agenda, a 10-point package that included an abortion rights proposal and nine noncontroversial items.
Some Democrats also believe the Women's Equality Party might take away votes from the pro-labor Working Families Party, which endorsed Cuomo over Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, but only after a heated internal debate. Teachout is running in a Democratic primary against Cuomo.
Wu, Teachout's running mate, has called the ballot line a "sham" and said Hochul is a Republican in Democrat's clothing. He says Hochul's voting record was more in line with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) than Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Asked about the criticism, Hochul told the Albany Times Union, "Sometimes politics is so darn silly -- I don't even pay attention to that."