Hoyt grew up on Buffalo’s west side and attended area schools, graduating from The Park School of Buffalo, and receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Buffalo State College in 1992. He also attended Ohio Wesleyan University.
Prior to entering elected office, Hoyt served as Western New York regional director for U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and was marketing and promotions director for the Buffalo Bisons minor league baseball team. He represented the 144th Assembly District, encompassing part of Buffalo, New York, and all of Grand Island, New York from 1992 to 2011.
Sam was first elected in a 1992 special election following the death of his father, William B. Hoyt, who held the office prior to him. From 1992 to 2010, Sam won all elections for his assembly seat with voting percentages between 51% to 79% in his favor.
Sam's complete electoral history has been tracked, online, at Our Campaigns, and a portion of it is reflected here.There were also 31 write-in votes in this election, accounting for 0.10%.
Sam also received votes on both the Independent and Working Family lines in this election.
Sam also ran on the Liberal ticket in this election.
In the Assembly, Hoyt served as Majority Whip. As a senior member of the Assembly, he chaired several Assembly committees. In 2007, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver appointed Hoyt as the Chairman of the Assembly Local Governments Committee. Prior to becoming chairman of this committee, Hoyt was the Chairman of the Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigations Committee. He is also both a former Chairman of the Assembly Task Force on Demographics and Reapportionment, and the Assembly Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee. He also co-chaired both the Anti-Flipping and High Speed Rail Task Forces. Hoyt was also a member of the following committees: Ways and Means; Local Governments; Children and Families; Transportation; Energy; Tourism; Arts and Sports Development; Cities; Government Operations; Women's Issues Task Force; and the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force.
Some of Sam's political interests have included making state and local governments more efficient and accountable to taxpayers; revitalizing neighborhoods; increasing economic opportunity; and developing the Buffalo waterfront.
Hoyt concentrated on the redevelopment of Upstate New York cities. The passage of the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act; Land Bank Program; and State Historic Preservation Tax Credit are among his legislative accomplishments.
In 2009, Hoyt sponsored legislation that was passed to allow the City of Buffalo school district to start the fourth phase of its Joint Schools reconstruction project. As a lifelong environmentalist, in 2008, Hoyt passed a new law to protect old growth forests. The same year, Hoyt sponsored a new law that passed to fund bike paths across New York State, and has worked for their protection.
An advocate of marriage equality, Hoyt supported the Marriage Equality Act, which was passed in June 2011. This Act granted same-sex couples in New York State the freedom to marry under the law, as well as hundreds of rights, benefits, and protections that had been limited to married couples of the opposite sex.
In 2006, Sam proposed that a land-locked area between the Peace Bridge to Canada and Porter Avenue be transformed into a park. The strip of land was owned by the New York State Thruway Authority, and its scenic value had been lost due to the development of both the Peace Bridge toll plaza and Interstate-190. That area of land had previously been part of Front Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Of his proposed creation of the park, Sam was quoted in an October 9, 2006 McClatchy - Tribune Business News article by Sharon Linstedt, stating:
This would not only offer fantastic views of the waterfront, the Canadian shoreline and sunsets, it will also be a great vantage point for watching West Side Rowing Club regattas. It will be like a natural grandstand.
Sam proposed in 2004 that a community-based group be created regarding the restoration of the H.H. Richardson Complex, historic buildings that are part of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, for use as a center for cultural and educational activities. Sam proposed that $100 million be put toward the restoration, which was supported by New York State Governor George Pataki. In 2009, in relation to interests of Buffalo State College in desiring land use expansion of the psychiatric center grounds and vacant buildings, Hoyt stated that Buffalo was famous for its historic architecture.
In 2000, Hoyt, who is an advocate of college students, urged University at Buffalo (UB) leaders Bill Greiner (1934–2009) and Dennis Black to work with staff of the student newspaper, The Spectrum, after students were twice-arrested by campus police for remaining in the newspaper offices after hours to work. The involvement of Hoyt and UB English Department Chairwoman Barbara Bono succeeded in opening communications between UB leadership and the students.
Also active in the area of social justice, Hoyt joined other urban legislators in declaring a state of emergency in the fight against HIV/AIDS in minority communities.
Sam introduced legislation that went into effect in 1998 that guaranteed a tax-free week for college students in New York State for the purchase of their college textbooks.
In 1997, Sam worked with other legislators on a project aimed at expanding high speed rail in New York State, particularly to Buffalo.
Throughout his tenure, Sam was a strong supporter of his alma mater, Buffalo State College, as well as Muriel A. Howard, the president of the college from 1996 to 2009. When Howard took on the role as president of the College, Sam stated that she was an excellent choice. When Howard announced that she would be departing from the College, Sam stated that she would be difficult to replace and would be sorely missed.
In 2000, Sam was involved in an attempted political coup, led by Former Majority Leader Michael Bragman, of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, in order to oust him from his position. Following the coup, it was stated that Sam was unable to enter the circle of inner leadership in the Assembly, though he salvaged his political access to Silver when it was clear that the coup would be unsuccessful.
Hoyt received numerous awards, including the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award by the New York League of Conservation Voters; Elected Official of the Year in 2008 by both the State Historic Preservation Office and American Institute of Architects; the 1992 SUNY Chancellor’s Recognition Award; and the 2001 William B. Hoyt Environmental Award from the National Audubon Society that was named in honor of his late father. Hoyt has been a proponent of preserving historical architecture, including the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and its Richardson Olmsted Complex administration building.
In 2001, Sam received the 2001 League of Conservation Voters’ Creating a Greener New York Award, as well as recognition from the Western New York Chemical Dependency Consortium, and the New York Council on Problem Gambling for his efforts into creating awareness and funding for drug and gambling addiction treatment and prevention programs.
Sam has also received several awards in recognition of his work on behalf of issues related to social service, including the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association's Distinguished Public Service Award in 2000; the National Association for Mental Illness Public Service Award in 2000; and the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) Quality Service Award in 1999.
In 1997, Hoyt was named the State Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers’ Public Citizen of the Year because of his leadership role in fighting for responsible and fair state budgets, particularly on behalf of health; mental health; senior; addiction; and education services.
In September 2008, Hoyt was disciplined by Sheldon Silver for an inappropriate relationship involving a participant in the Assembly Intern Program based on a report completed by the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance. Silver announced that Sam had an "inappropriate personal relationship" with an Assembly intern, and issued the accompanying policy against it. Hoyt was prohibited from future participation in "any student internship program."
The woman who reported to the Ethics Committee that she and Sam had a sexual affair was an intern in the office of another legislator at the time. Though her name was withheld by The Buffalo News, the newspaper reported that the woman was 23 and Sam was 41 at the time; and she is an alumnus of the University at Buffalo Law School. Sam admitted breaking his marriage vows, and has taken responsibility for his actions. He did not break any law, nor any Assembly rules because the ethical policies regarding fraternization were not in place until after 2004. The affair occurred prior to that time, in 2003.
Sam is quoted in The Buffalo News, in an article by Michael Beebe from September 5, 2008, that reprints a prior statement regarding the affair:
I understand I am a public figure, but I've reconciled with my family, and I'm pleased to report I am happily married. No rules were broken; no laws were broken. I broke my marriage vows.
Information initially investigated by the Ethics Committee included e-mails by two women regarding personal information shared with them by Hoyt. Electronic messages between Sam and the woman who is the University at Buffalo Law School alumnus reflect, in part, Sam stating to the woman that he "could be...[her] human lollipop."
The second woman whose e-mails were provided to the Ethics Committee was a student assistant for two years, and later, was part of a federal student work program, though there was no evidence that definitively reflected that the two engaged in an affair.
In 2011, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced Hoyt's appointment as Regional President for the Empire State Development Corporation, a position in which he presently serves.
Of Sam's appointment to his position heading the Empire State Development Corporation, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stated on July 1, 2011:
Sam Hoyt has dedicated his life to serving the people of New York. During his almost 20 years in the New York State Assembly, Sam has proven to be a dedicated public servant who puts the needs of his constituents and community first. He has demonstrated the type of dedication and enthusiasm required for this new challenge.
In this position, Sam has overseen efforts to recruit new business, as well as support existing business for the Western, Central, Finger Lakes, and Southern regions of New York State.
In 2012, Sam was named Interim Chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. He also serves as chair of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Peace Bridge Authority.
Sam is married to wife, Connie, and has two sons, Clayton and Griffin.