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Kathy Hochul Introduces Herself As NY's Next Governor, Says She's Ready To Take The Helm

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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul makes her first remarks since Gov. Cuomo announced his resignation.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul introduced herself to New Yorkers Wednesday as their next governor, and told them she’s ready to take the helm in less than two weeks.  She promised her administration won’t be anything like outgoing governor Andrew Cuomo’s, even if some of it stays the same.. 

Hochul is in the awkward position of trying to explain her limited association with Cuomo and his scandals while also reassuring new Yorkers she’s ready for the top job.

"I think it's pretty clear, and it's no secret, that we have not been close, and I have not been associated with that. I know the job. I fought for the same policies. That's why I'm more prepared than anyone could possibly be for this position."

Cuomo will leave office later this month after mounting pressure and cratering support following the devastating report from the attorney general’s office corroborating sexual harassment allegations. Hochul says she will stay out of any ongoing investigations.

"I was not aware of any of the allegations whatsoever in the report. The report stands on its own. I've been in this business long enough to know that it's not the purview of the New York State governor to dictate to the New York State Assembly or to the judiciary committee on what action they should take next with respect to anything, particularly impeachment."

She did make it clear her governing and management style is far different than Cuomo’s. His office has been described as hostile, abusive, and toxic.

"I will stand right here, at the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment."

Scandals aside, Hochul says there’s a strong legacy of accomplishment over the past 7 years that she’s been proud to support.

"I was out there fighting in the streets to raise the minimum wage. I was out there fighting for paid family leave. I've been the champion of policies to eradicate the specter of heroin and opioid abuse, something that's touched my family personally. Child care issues. I've been out there making the announcements on affordable housing, clean energy, economic development. So, those policies will continue and even be more enhanced."

Hochul says she’s already spoken with legislative leaders, as well as labor, business, faith and elected officials across the state. During the next two weeks, Hochul says she’ll build her senior staff and continue meetings with current and potential cabinet members. She says she’ll also continue to travel the state as she always has, listening to new Yorkers and taking their concerns to Albany.

HOCHUL: I WILL "FIGHT LIKE HELL" FOR THE PEOPLE OF NY
By Karen DeWitt

New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, in her first remarks since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he’s resigning, said she intends to be a fighter for New York. She also acknowledged that there will be turnover in what is now a tainted administration after the state’s attorney general found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, and that key staff members were complicit in some retaliatory actions against an accuser.

Hochul said she believes that it was appropriate for Cuomo to step down. She said she spoke to the governor for the first time in over six months, and he “pledged his full support” for a smooth transition. Hochul said she’s ready to take over as the state’s first female governor on August 24.

“It’s not something we expected or asked for, but I am fully prepared to assume the responsibilities as the 57th governor of the state of New York,” Hochul told a packed room of reporters.

Hochul said her style as chief executive will be to listen first and then take decisive action, a contrast to the top-down, hard-charging style that Cuomo employs. But she said that doesn’t mean she will be complacent.

“The promise I make to all New Yorkers, right here and right now, is that I will fight like hell for you every single day,” said Hochul.

Hochul intends to continue with many of the Cuomo Administration’s key policies and programs, including the $15 an hour minimum wage, paid family leave, and ongoing economic development projects. But one tradition that will not continue, she said, is the workplace atmosphere of bullying and intimidation outlined in the AG’s report.

“At the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment,” she said.

Hochul was hesitant to outline a new agenda because she won’t become governor for 13 days. She also would not reveal who she might pick as her lieutenant governor, but is considering a number of individuals, hinting they might come from the downstate area to balance Hochul’ s Buffalo origins.

Commenting on the staff turnover when she takes over, she said several top aides to Cuomo who were identified as acting unethically in the AG’s report will not keep their jobs.

Hochul will inherit a number of big challenges, including rising COVID-19 rates due to the delta variant, and the state’s stagnating vaccination rate. She would not rule out reissuing a state of emergency to deal with the pandemic, or issue mask mandates, saying “all options are on the table.” But she said she intends to work first to convince more New Yorkers to get the vaccine.

“I think the answer is very simple,” Hochul said. “More people being vaccinated is our key out of this.”

Hochul plans to target communities with low vaccination and high infection rates to try to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Even when Hochul becomes governor, Cuomo is not likely to fade from the news cycle any time soon. He still faces a criminal complaint from accuser Brittany Commisso, and the Albany County Sheriff is continuing to investigate the claim.

There’s an ongoing federal investigation into whether he and top aides concealed the true number of nursing home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, the state assembly had not curtailed its impeachment inquiry, even though the governor is leaving. When asked about whether the impeachment inquiry should go forward, Hochul said she won’t dictate to the legislature on how they should conduct their business.