-By Marin Cogan
May 25, 2011- Virtually overnight, Democrat Kathy Hochul went from little-known county clerk to a national standard-bearer and symbol of hope for her party in 2012.
But in her speech after pulling off an upset victory in a House special election, Hochul went out of her way to play down the partisan implications of her win.
She eschewed an introduction from a national Democrat and had her college-age daughter introduce her instead. And she sought to keep things humble, emphasizing her local connections in a traditionally Republican district.
“The last couple weeks hanging out with my mom, I’ve come to view her as a superhuman,” Katie Hochul, who was a senior at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia this year, said to more than 200 supporters at the victory party in Amherst, N.Y.
Yet Hochul isn’t a complete outsider — her husband is a U.S. attorney, and she got her first taste of politics working in the office of legendary New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She is, however, a product of upstate New York and a graduate of Syracuse University.
“I think that Kathy has an aura about her. It’s low-key. But she’s going to be a star wherever she goes. It’s in her DNA,” said Tom Loughran, an Erie County legislator.
Her fans in upstate New York seem ready to embrace her as a rising star.
“She is now a national darling,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.
Local elected officials who have worked with Hochul over the past several years describe her as intense in her focus and work ethic but with a personal charisma that helped woo voters in the Republican-leaning district. They point to her early opposition to then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants as evidence that she’s willing to buck her own party when she thinks it’s necessary.