(The Center Square) – Kathy Hochul was sworn in early Tuesday as New York’s 57th governor, becoming the first woman to hold the position and hoping to avoid the scandals that enveloped her three immediate predecessors.
In a ceremony that took place shortly after midnight, Hochul, 62, was sworn in by New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. The former lieutenant governor succeeds Andrew Cuomo, who resigned a few minutes earlier after months of controversies.
“Honored to be officially sworn in as New York’s 57th governor,” Hochul wrote on Twitter a short time after the ceremony. “Looking forward to the full swearing-in ceremony with my family later this morning, and addressing the people of New York later today.”
Cuomo announced Aug. 10 he was stepping down, shortly after a report was released by Attorney General Letitia James that supported allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him by 11 women, many of whom were either current or former subordinates of the governor.
Other controversies were also swirling around Cuomo, foremost among them allegations that his staff had sought to suppress information about the nursing home death toll during the COVID-19 pandemic. Republican and a few Democratic lawmakers argued that the true death toll was being concealed in order to obscure the administration’s culpability in policies that may have spread the virus among long-term care facilities.
Hochul, like Cuomo a Democrat, was his running mate in the 2014 and 2018 elections. But it became clear during the early months of the pandemic that their relationship was not close, as she was largely frozen out of his hand-picked team assembled to appear during daily on-camera briefings.
In the days since Cuomo announced his resignation, Hochul has promised a clean break, saying she would fire or seek the resignation of any of Cuomo’s aides who had been mentioned in the attorney general’s report.
The two governors preceding Cuomo also left office under a cloud. Former Gov. David Paterson abandoned a reelection campaign in 2010 after he was accused of witness tampering in a domestic abuse case involving a staff member. He later was fined for lying under oath in an unrelated matter. Paterson, like Hochul, had been elevated to governor following the resignation of his predecessor, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was caught up in the investigation of a prostitution ring.
Hochul served a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives before becoming lieutenant governor, and before that she’d spent time as Erie County Clerk and on the Hamburg Town Board. Over the decades she built a reputation as a moderate Democrat, even earning the endorsement of the National Rifle Association in 2012, but she has tended to support more progressive positions since joining the Cuomo administration.
James, who was seen as a potential primary challenger to Cuomo if he had run for reelection in 2022, congratulated Hochul on her elevation to governor on Tuesday.
“Today is a historic day for New Yorkers with the swearing in of our first female governor, Kathy Hochul,” James said in a statement. “I congratulate Governor Hochul on this incredible accomplishment and wish her well in her new role building on the progress of our great state. I look forward to continuing to work with her and the entire incoming administration.”