Kathy Hochul, a former lieutenant governor, was sworn in as New York’s first female governor at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Hochul tweeted from her new official governor account, “Honored to be officially sworn in as New York’s 57th Governor.”
The governor of New York’s website was also updated shortly after midnight. In a private ceremony at the state capitol in Albany, Hochul was sworn in by the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore. Hochul’s public swearing-in ceremony will be held at 10 a.m.
Tuesday in the Red Room of the state capitol building, she wasted no time in announcing her first two appointments of administration: Karen Persichilli Keogh, a former senior aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, as secretary to the governor, and Elizabeth Fine, executive vice president and general counsel of Empire State Development (New York’s economic development agency), as counsel to the governor.
Last week, Hochul said during her visit to New York City’s Queens borough, “I’m excited about this,” “I’m excited about this opportunity. I’m very prepared for this.”
On Monday, in a fiery farewell address to constituents, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted the five-month investigation of the state attorney general that found he sexually harassed several women calling it a “political firecracker” that triggered an “unfair and unjust” rush to judgment against him.
Cuomo, 63, announced his resignation in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday, effective at 12 a.m. on Aug. 24.
Cuomo wrote, “I hereby tender my resignation for the office of Governor of the State of New York,” “It has been my pleasure to serve with you both.”
Cuomo, on the other hand, in an address used the opportunity to slam the claims against him and tout his achievements as governor.
“Let me say now that when government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts, you undermine the justice system and that doesn’t serve women and it doesn’t serve men or society,” Cuomo said. “I understand that there are moments of intense political pressure and media frenzy that cause a rush to judgment, but that is not right. It’s not fair or sustainable. Facts still matter.”
Cuomo announced his resignation on Aug. 13, ten days after State Attorney General Letitia James made public the findings of an investigation she allegedly found the governor sexually harassed several women, including current and former state employees, and had retaliated against one of his accusers.
Cuomo said, “A firecracker can start a stampede, but at one point everyone looks around and says, ‘Why are we running?'” The truth is ultimately always revealed,” “The attorney general’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic and it worked. There was a political and media stampede but the truth will (come) out in time. Of that I am confident.”
Cuomo also sought to establish a legacy beyond the allegations that drove him from office, saying, “No governor in the nation has passed more progressive measures than I have.” He listed his accomplishments, including a refurbished LaGuardia Airport, a new Penn Station transportation terminal in New York City, and marriage equality as cornerstones to what he called a “new paradigm of government that actually works.”
He gave advice for the pandemic, and his empathy and sincerity during his daily press briefings on the crisis made him a national figure. He also reminded listeners that “we faced up to the facts and we made the tough but necessary decisions” under his leadership.
“I believe she will step up to the challenge,” Cuomo said of Hochul, who would become governor.
However, he returned to the scandal that caused his dramatic downfall.
Cuomo said, “Now there are moments in life that test our character, that asks us are we the person we believe we are or are we the person we try to be at our best. You know me, I am a fighter and my instinct is to fight this because it is unfair and unjust in my mind.”
“But you also know that I love New York and I serve you,” he said. “That is the oath that I took. And at this moment, I believe the right thing is that my service comes first. Prolonging this situation could only cause governmental paralysis and that is just not an option for you and not an option for the state, especially now.”
Cuomo’s top aid issued a statement on his behalf on his last day on the job, claiming Cuomo “has no interest in running for office again.”
Secretary to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, stated Cuomo’s immediate plans when he leaves the job he claimed a decade ago, one formerly held by his late father, Mario Cuomo.
Cuomo has over 25 years of public service, according to DeRosa, from his time as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration in the 1990s to getting elected state attorney general in 2006 and serving as governor since 2010.
“And the way he does it, it’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said DeRosa, whose resignation on Aug. 8 as the most powerful unelected bureaucrat in state government will also take effect Monday night. “He looks forward to spending time with his family and has a lot of fishing to catch up on. He is exploring a number of options, but has no interest in running for office again.”
Cuomo presided over briefings on Tropical Storm Henri over the weekend, attempting to demonstrate that he was in control until the end. Despite Hochul’s absence from the news conferences, he requested that his emergency management team stay in place and stated that Hochul had been briefed.
Cuomo requested that questions be limited to the storm to keep reporters “on topic.”
Cuomo said, “We’re dealing with an emergency, and New Yorkers want to hear about an emergency.”
The first question he was asked was if he still intended to resign on Monday.
“And, yes, my final day is [Monday],” Cuomo said.
Hochul’s political career began on a town council in Western New York, unlike Cuomo, who learned his political instincts from his father. She was in Congress for a short time and has been lieutenant governor for seven years.
Hochul has stated that one of her priorities will be to appoint a new lieutenant governor from a New York City borough. She has hinted that there will be “turnover” from the Cuomo administration, especially among individuals in the Executive Chamber listed in the state attorney general’s report as enabling Cuomo’s alleged harassment.
Another priority is the pandemic and repopulating the state’s health department’s depleted ranks.
Hochul said that the state has the authority to mandate masks in all schools across the state, and said that she believes “we will need mask mandates for children to go back to school … and that will have to be universal, it will be statewide.”
Hochul stated, “I’m looking forward at the right time to introducing the members of my administration.”