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WAMC Northeast Report

Hochul Says As Governor She’ll "Fight Like Hell" For NYers

Kathy Hochul
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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New York LG Kathy Hochul

New York’s Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, in her first remarks since Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he’s resigning, says she intends to be a fighter for New York. 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, she acknowledged that there will be “turnover” in what is now a tainted administration.

Hochul says she believes that it was “appropriate” for Cuomo to step down. She says she spoke to the governor for the first time in over six months, and he “pledged his full support” for a smooth transition. Hochul says 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 in Albany.

Hochul says her style as the 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 says that doesn’t mean she will be complacent.

“The promise I make to all New Yorkers, right here and right now, I will fight like hell for you every single day,” said Hochul. "Like I've always done and always will."

Hochul says she intends to continue with many of the administration’s key policies and programs, including the $15 minimum wage and paid family leave, and economic development projects but she says one tradition that will not continue 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, saying she is not yet governor for 13 days. She also would not reveal who she might pick as her Lieutenant Governor, saying she is considering a number of individuals, and hinted that they might come from the downstate area to balance Hochul’s Buffalo-area origins. But she says there will be “turnover” in the administration, and that several top aides to Cuomo named in the attorney general's report as having acted unethically 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 says 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 says he 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 has not curtailed an impeachment inquiry, even though the governor is leaving. Hochul, asked about whether impeachment should go forward, says she won’t “dictate” to the legislature how they should conduct their business.