At the stroke of midnight Tuesday, Kathy Hochul became the first female governor of New York, taking charge of a state government keen to get back to work after months of diversions over sexual harassment allegations against Andrew Cuomo.
The Democrat from western New York was sworn in as governor in a brief, private ceremony in the New York State Capitol overseen by the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore.
Afterward, she told WGRZ, a Buffalo television station, she felt “the weight of responsibility” on her shoulders.
“I’ll tell New Yorkers I’m up to the task. And I’m really proud to be able to serve as their governor and I won’t let them down,” she said.
Hochul’s ascent to the top job was a history-making moment in a capital where women have only recently begun chipping away at a notoriously male-dominated political culture.
Cuomo left office at 12:00 a.m, two weeks after he announced he would resign rather than face a likely impeachment battle. He submitted his resignation letter late Monday to the leaders of the state Assembly and Senate.
On his final day in office, Cuomo released a pre-recorded farewell address in which he defended his record over a decade as New York’s governor and portrayed himself as the victim of a “media frenzy.”
Hochul was scheduled to have a ceremonial swearing-in event Tuesday morning at the Capitol, with more pomp than the brief, legally required event during the night.
She planned to meet with legislative leaders later in the morning and make a public address at 3 p.m.
For the first time, a majority of the most powerful figures in the New York state government will be women, including state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Attorney General Letitia James, and the chief judge, DiFiore. The state Assembly is led by a man, Speaker Carl Heastie.
Hochul will inherit immense challenges as she takes over an administration facing criticism for inaction in Cuomo’s final months.