NEW YORK — New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul addressed New Yorkers on Wednesday for the first time since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would resign in the wake of numerous sexual harassment allegations and other scandals.
Hochul, who will become the first woman governor of New York, said she agreed with Cuomo’s decision to step down. His resignation is expected to take effect Aug. 24.
“I believe it is appropriate and in the best interest of the state of New York,” she said, adding although she did not expect Cuomo’s resignation, she is prepared to take over as governor. “I’m ready. I want people to know that I’m ready for this.”
Hochul began a two-week transition period Wednesday. She is preparing to lead the state through a critical time, as the delta variant spurs a concerning spike in COVID-19 cases and the state’s economy struggles to recover from pandemic-related restrictions.
Hochul said she will spend the next 13 days meeting with current and potential Cabinet members and building out her team of senior staff, and she expects to name a new lieutenant governor in the next few weeks. She also plans to travel to different parts of the state to further sculpt her vision for New York moving forward.
“I’ll do what I’ve always done. I will travel the state to meet New Yorkers, to listen to them, to assure them that I’ve got their backs. And I’ll take their concerns and bring them back to our state capitol and work with our partners in every level of government to come to solutions,” she said. “People will soon learn that my style is to listen first, then take decisive action.”
Watch Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s full news conference here:
Hochul said she will deliver a State of the State-style address shortly after taking office.
“But make no mistake, our work has already begun,” she added. “I know this year and a half has been so challenging for families and businesses across our state … But I know New Yorkers. They’re hardwired to persevere and to prevail. And the promise I make to all New Yorkers, right here and right now, I will fight like hell for you every single day, like I’ve always done and always will.”
Hochul is a lawyer who served one term in Congress, representing western New York near Buffalo.
She has led task forces on regional development, the opioid crisis, and the COVID-19 health emergency. Now she will be dealing with issues like marijuana legalization and new slots on the MTA Board.
Hochul is a working mom who has said she understands the challenges of juggling career and motherhood.
She joined Cuomo’s administration as lieutenant governor in 2015, after he chose the former congresswoman as his running mate during his 2014 re-election campaign when Robert Duffy decided not to run again.
Hochul and Cuomo won the election and were re-elected to a second and third term, respectively, in 2018.
However, Hochul on Wednesday painted a picture of a distant partnership with Cuomo. She said while his team had promised to ensure a smooth transition of power, she does expect turnover among staff.
“I think it’s very clear that the governor and I have not been close, physically or otherwise in terms of much time,” she said. “I’m going to stand right here — at the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.”
When asked if she would pardon Cuomo in connection with any criminal investigations in the wake of the attorney general’s sexual harassment report, Hochul said it was “far too premature to have those conversations.”
“No one who was named as doing anything unethical in the report will remain in my administration,” she added.
Cuomo resigned on Tuesday following a tumultous week filled with growing calls for him to step down in the wake of the attorney general’s report, which triggered movement in the Assembly to speed up an impeachment investigation, as well as a criminal complaint filed by one of his accusers.
The impeachment investigation, which could continue despite Cuomo’s resignation, also focused on his administration’s COVID nursing homes scandal and allegations that the governor used state resources to produce a book on his handling of the pandemic.
Hochul will take over for the remainder of Cuomo’s term, which ends in January 2023.
Pundits predict she will make a bid for a full term as governor in next year’s election. However, if she does run, she will likely face a crowded field of both Democratic and Republican contenders.