On Monday, New York Times reporter Raymond Hernandez profiled Democrat Kathy Hochul, the winner of the recent special congressional election to fill a seat from a Republican district in New York state, in "Her Inheritance: An Eagerness to Serve."
Praising the Democrat in personal terms the Times rarely if ever uses when discussing a local Republican like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Hernandez hit every Lincolnesque cliche in the "devout Roman Catholic" Hochul’s humble family background, which he painted as a challenge overcome by the candidate.
A few months before Kathy Hochul was born, her family was living in a 31-by-8-foot trailer not far from the hulking Bethlehem Steel plant near Buffalo. When things got a little better, they moved to the second-floor flat of a home in working-class Woodlawn.
The family was just getting by then: Ms. Hochul’s father, Jack Courtney, did clerical work at the plant at night and attended college during the day; her mother, Pat Courtney, stayed home and raised six children.
But they were unusually aware of the needs of those around them: On holidays, the family brought into their home developmentally disabled children who had no relatives to visit. And they collected food, clothing and furniture for families who were struggling in the region, hard hit by industrial decline.
Ms. Hochul, 52, startled the national political establishment last week, capturing a Congressional seat that had been in Republican hands for 40 years. But those who know her say it was her upbringing -- in a modest, devoutly Roman Catholic, service-minded family -- that made her instantly able to understand the unease among economically anxious voters over a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare.
While speaking of issues of interest to "devout Roman Catholics," Hernandez somehow avoided the issue of abortion, and the fact that Hochul earned the endorsement of the pro-abortion EMILY’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice New York. Instead, more children-centered flattery followed.
But even as she pursued her political career, Ms. Hochul remained involved in the service efforts her family undertook.
A few years ago, her mother, concerned about the rate of domestic violence in the area, decided she wanted to open a transitional house for abused women and their children. Ms. Hochul drew up the paperwork to help her mother establish the home, and then later even helped baby-sit the children of the women living there, so that they could attend counseling and other programs.