Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was chosen to be New York’s chief legal officer, admitted in her first public comments this week that protesting against him was “difficult” – as the governor fiercely defended his choice Saturday in the Bronx.
Speaking to a crowd of about 200 people at the nonprofit Hispanic Pastoral Action Center in Mount Eden, Hochul defended her choice of 54-year-old judge Hector LaSalle amid ongoing public outcry.
“I have studied all the records. I’ve seen cases – even those that are vilified and used against him. They are false. They are falsely representative and that is why I am standing here,” Hochul said, adding that LaSalle is “a man who stood up for what is right.”
“I believe that people will open their minds, open their hearts and do the right thing,” she continued.
Asked why she was selected as the state’s chief legal officer, Hochul said, “We still get asked, ‘Why, why?’ He is highly qualified. He worked so hard all his life, rose through the ranks, overcame adversity. Why is he treated to a different standard than everyone else? I haven’t heard a good answer to that question yet.”
House Minority Leader Hakim Jeffreys, one of the country’s most prominent black leaders, was among leading New York Democrats who spoke Saturday in support of LaSalle, the irritating progressives who opposed the former prosecutor in charge of law and order.
“I think it’s important to note that, in addition to his clear and compelling qualifications, the fact that this nomination is historic,” Jeffreys said. “The fact that Judge LaSalle is Hispanic should matter, and we support you at this historic moment.”
Other state Democrats in attendance included Representatives Nydia Velasquez and Adriano Espaillat, as well as former Bronx County President Ruben Diaz Jr.
LaSalle, who wasn’t there, spoke Friday night in Midtown to a tight-knit crowd of members of the Puerto Rico Bar Association.
“I just want to take a moment to thank this organization for everything it does — to thank the many of you who have been so supportive during this turbulent time,” he said.
“And just so you know, no matter how hard it is, I feed on your support — phone calls, emails as I go into the hood. All down, nothing matters more than anything,” he added.
LaSalle declined to answer questions from a Post correspondent.
LaSalle will become the first Hispanic to head a state high court if he is approved by a majority in the 63-member State Senate.
But he has come under fire from progressive critics who say they fear he will push the state Court of Appeals too far if he heads the high bench.
The Post reported exclusively that Hochul personally lobbied key Democratic state senators to support her controversial candidacy, warning at least one that she would “remember” who was with her.
She and her staff are desperate to save her choice of LaSalle as he fights fierce opposition from left-wing politicians who may succeed in making her the first governor to be denied a judicial choice to the state’s highest court.
Additional report by Zach Williams
texasstandard.news contributed to this report.