In the summer of 2021, New York State watched as former Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a name not many residents had taken note of before, was sworn in as the 57th governor of the state after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned.
It usually is during situations when governors leave office before their term is officially over that the lieutenant governor position actually receives any attention.
In the year following Hochul’s ascension to the executive position of the state, some voters might be paying a little closer mind to the candidates running for the lieutenant governorship in the 2022 General Election. But, what does the lieutenant governor actually do?
The role of the lieutenant governor
Constitutionally, the lieutenant governor of New York has two concrete jobs: to preside as the president of the State Senate and to take over the governorship if the current governor resigns or is impeached. Outside of these responsibilities, the duties of the lieutenant governor depend solely on the governor.
“It’s very comparable to the vice president of the United States,” said E.J. McMahon, the founding senior fellow of the Empire Center, an Albany based public policy think tank.
Like the vice president, the lieutenant governor casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate. According to McMahon, however, ties are not incredibly common as there is an odd number of state senators.
This leaves a lot of open space in the lieutenant governor’s schedule — space that the governor could decide to fill up or not.
Governors who choose to make use of their lieutenant often assign them very promotional roles. They could be sent around the state to praise the governor at press conferences, attend ribbon-cutting ceremonies, talk up the governor’s policies and other related tasks.
“If the lieutenant governor is part of the governor’s team, he or she is kept busy promoting and boosting the governor’s political priorities,” McMahon said in a phone interview. “Everything the governor doesn’t have the time for.”
Often, when the lieutenant governor is not out supporting the governor, they’re spending time in Albany to look after the State Senate.
Cuomo, for example, used his lieutenant governor as part of a publicity campaign around the state to promote his proposed budget, according to McMahon.
When a governor doesn’t hand over many jobs to the lieutenant governor, however, it means the lieutenant is going to have a lot of time on their hands.
“If the lieutenant governor is not part of the governor’s team and has not been assigned a role in promoting and helping to develop policy with the governor’s administration, the lieutenant governor essentially has very little to do,” McMahon said.
Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, was an example of a governor who didn’t utilize his lieutenant, Alfred DelBello, very much. McMahon said that Mario Cuomo’s administration didn’t include DelBello as part of the team, leaving him without much work to do.
The lieutenant governor is elected on a ticket with the gubernatorial candidate for a four-year term. In the past, the lieutenant governor was elected in a separate primary from the governor, but nowadays the lieutenant gubernatorial candidate is selected by the candidate for governor.
The 2022 lieutenant governor’s race
This election season, current Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado and former NYPD Deputy Inspector Alison Esposito are running as the Democratic and Republican candidates for lieutenant governor, respectively.
Voters can begin casting their ballots in person during early voting from October 29nd through November 6th or on Election Day on November 8th.
Delgado has been serving as the lieutenant governor to Hochul since he was appointed to fill the remainder of former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s term in May 2022. Hailing from eastern upstate New York, he is running alongside Hochul in their first election together.
“I am honored to be serving New York as Lieutenant Governor and I’m eager for the opportunity to continue partnering with Governor Hochul to build a fairer, safer, more affordable state for all,” Delgado said in a statement to TK. “I grew up in a working class family in Schenectady and my parents instilled in me the values that everyone deserves a quality education, everyone deserves food on their table, everyone deserves healthcare and everyone deserves to feel safe, supported and respected. These are the values that guide every decision I make and these are the values I’m fighting to defend as Lieutenant Governor.”
Prior to being the lieutenant governor, Delgado was a U.S. congressmember, a commercial litigator and a criminal justice attorney, according to his page on Hochul’s campaign website.
Three of the most important issues for Hochul and Delgado, according to a spokesperson for the campaign, are abortion, gun safety and the economy.
“Governor Hochul and I are committed to investing in public education, empowering our unions, protecting abortion rights, upholding our democracy and passing common sense gun safety laws to keep New Yorkers safe,” Delgado said. “We’re seeing dangerous attacks on our democracy and on our basic human rights across the nation and right here in our home state. We can never allow extremists to roll back the clock and take away the New York values we hold dear. My vision for New York is to continue moving our state forward, continuing to invest in our communities, invest in future generations and build a new day for New York together.”
Esposito, who is from southern New York, served in the NYPD for more than 20 years, rising through the ranks to become a deputy inspector for Brooklyn’s 70th Precinct. She’s running as part of Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin’s campaign.
“For too long, Alison has witnessed the state and city she loves deteriorate in a spiraling decline,” Esposito’s page on Zeldin’s campaign website reads in part. “Fatally flawed liberal policies like cashless bail, the Defund the Police movement, the Less is More Act, DAs like Alvin Bragg who won’t enforce the law and so much more have surrendered our streets to criminals. Alison has fought crime her whole adult life and is more than ready to tackle the rampant crime and violence facing our state.”
Some goals that the Zeldin-Esposito campaign are emphasizing are reducing crime, ending all COVID-19 mandates, cutting taxes and lowering energy costs.
“Now more than ever, New York needs capable, determined and courageous leadership that will protect everyday New Yorkers, drive down their cost of living and restore our state to glory,” the campaign site continued.
The campaign did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.
Editor’s Note: This article was written as part of the 2022 New York State Elections Reporting Fellowship of the Center for Community Media at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.