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Kathy Hochul is sworn in as New York's first female elected governor

Gov. Kathy Hochul takes the oath of office at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany on Jan. 1, 2023.
Mike Groll
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul takes the oath of office at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany on Jan. 1, 2023.

Kathy Hochul took the oath of office on New Year’s Day, becoming the first elected female governor of New York state.

She pledged to take on battles over the next four years, including fighting against gun violence, antisemitism and other bigotry, and recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hochul took the oath, administered by longtime NAACP President Hazel Dukes, using two Bibles. One was her family Bible, and the other was the Roosevelt family Bible, borrowed from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, first published in the 1600s and written in Dutch.

The program included videos from young women noting the significance of the day, a gospel choir, and 8-year-old Harlem resident Kayden Hern, named the poet laureate of the inaugural ceremonies, who recited his poem “In My Mind.”

“In my mind, I thought it was fine to sit in the back of the classroom. Because the teacher never asked me to read or write. But little did she know that I was so ever bright," Hern recited. "In my mind, I could not understand why they use to called me ashy and black. I always heard that being black and living near the railroad track. Those are the things that would hold you back.

“But now I understand being called ashy and black. Black is the color of my skin, so soft, beautiful, silky and smooth."

Hochul, who first took office in August 2021, when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in a sexual harassment scandal, name-checked women from throughout New York’s history who influenced her, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm and Hillary Clinton.

But Hochul said she is not only beginning her term to make history, but also to make a difference. She said she will prioritize resolving the affordable housing crisis and the scourge of gun violence that took the lives of 10 people in a mass shooting in her hometown of Buffalo last spring, as well as hate crimes, antisemitism and other bigotry.

“Those are the fights we are called to take on,” Hochul said. “We must.”

Hochul also gave a shoutout to police and other emergency response professionals in Buffalo, where a devastating Christmas blizzard killed at least 39 people.

Hochul, who last November won election by the smallest margin in a generation, faced criticism from her opponent over the state’s high crime rate. She vowed Sunday to make the state safer.

She also pledged to continue to protect the right to choose abortion, marriage and voting, and improve a flagging economy.

“And we must reverse the trend of people leaving our state in search of lower costs and opportunities elsewhere,” Hochul said. “We can do this.”

New York has the highest outmigration rate of any state in the nation.

Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, Attorney General Tish James, and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, all Democrats, were also sworn in to new four-year terms during the ceremony.

After the ceremony, Hochul has a busy month scheduled, with the State of the State address on Jan. 10, and her state budget plan due by February.

It’s not going to be all smooth sailing for the governor, though.

In between those addresses, her choice for New York’s new chief judge, Hector LaSalle, faces a tough confirmation process from the State Senate, where a dozen Democratic senators have pledged not to vote for him.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.