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Hochul sworn in as N.Y.'s first female governor after Cuomo exit

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Kathy Hochul was sworn in Tuesday as New York's first female governor shortly after the clock struck midnight as the state prepares to move on from the decade-long tenure of the embattled Andrew Cuomo.

After Cuomo's resignation became official at 11:59 p.m., Hochul was sworn in by the state's chief judge, Janet DiFiore, at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday in the State Capitol in Albany.

A more formal ceremonial swearing-in took place Tuesday at 10 a.m., with Hochul's family members and the state's two other top politicians, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, in attendance as she took the oath of office.

"This is an emotional moment for me, but it is one that I've prepared for," she said afterward.

The trio of top politicians in Albany has for decades been known as the "three men in a room," famous for cutting closed-door deals on legislative and budget matters. With Hochul joining Stewart-Cousins in top posts, the dynamic now becomes two women and a man.

Hochul said she was meeting with the pair right after the swearing-in, and told reporters she'd also spoken with President Joe Biden and they discussed a "number of issues." "He pledged his full support for my administration," she said.

Hochul, 62, is the ninth woman currently serving as a governor, which ties a record set in 2004. She made her first formal address as governor Tuesday afternoon, where she laid out her priorities, including a mask mandate and a vaccine requirement for all school personnel, along "with an option to test out weekly, at least for now."

Other pressing issues include the state's eviction moratorium, which is set to expire at the end of the month, as well as reforming the state's slow-moving $2.7 billion rental relief fund and its $2.1 billion worker relief fund. State Sen. Jessica Ramos told The City website that she had already met with Hochul about the worker fund. "There are issues of transparency and accessibility that we've already begun discussing," Ramos said.

In her address, Hochul said she discussed those issues with legislative leaders and "we are unified in our sense of urgency" to speed up payouts.

She also announced reforms to sexual harassment and ethics training procedures and policies for state employees. "We'll focus on open, ethical government that New Yorkers can trust," she said, and "change the culture in Albany."

Hochul, a former member of Congress from Buffalo who has been lieutenant governor since 2015, has promised a more transparent and less abrasive tenure than that of the often-combative Cuomo.

"No one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment," she told reporters after Cuomo announced his resignation after a scathing report by the state attorney general's office found that he sexually harassed 11 women and that his office was a hostile work environment.

Cuomo has denied the harassment allegations but acknowledged that working in his office could be "tough" because it is a high-pressure environment.

Hochul has used the two weeks since Cuomo's announcement to meet with elected officials around the state and to build up her administration. Hochul will serve the rest of Cuomo's term, and she has said she plans to run for the job next year.

Hochul announced two key appointments to her administration Monday, naming Karen Persichilli Keogh as her secretary — effectively the governor's No. 2 — and Elizabeth Fine as counsel to the governor.

Hochul said the pair "bring the depth of knowledge, leadership and experience that it will take to meet the challenges New Yorkers face."

Keogh has worked for Hillary Clinton, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Clinton voiced her support in a tweet Monday.

"She was a trusted advisor when I had the honor of serving NY in the Senate. She has a steady hand & knows every corner of the state. @KathyHochul has made a great choice in appointing her," Clinton tweeted.

More appointments are expected soon. Hochul said Monday, "As governor, I will assemble a strong team to turn the corner on the pandemic and serve the best interests of New York, whether it's defeating Covid, getting more people vaccinated or strengthening our economy."

Hochul will also have to contend with the fallout from Cuomo's time in office.

While his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, said in a statement Monday that he has no intention of running for office again, the state Assembly's Judiciary Committee is pushing ahead with its impeachment inquiry. After it announced that it was scuttling the investigation of allegations of sexual harassment, misuse of state resources and covering up coronavirus deaths because of Cuomo's resignation, the committee is now expected to release a report with its findings in the coming weeks. Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing.

In a resignation address Monday, Cuomo said the state faces numerous challenges, some of them from the delta variant of the coronavirus, and said he thought Hochul was up to the task.

"I believe she will step up to the challenge. We all wish her success," Cuomo said.

As he often did as governor, Cuomo also took a not-so-veiled shot at New York Mayor Bill de Blasio while praising his expected successor, the heavily favored Democratic nominee Eric Adams.

"I think he'll bring a new philosophy and competence to the position," Cuomo said.

De Blasio met with Hochul for about an hour last week.

"It was just a good, healthy, sane — emphasize the word 'sane' — conversation, which I truly appreciate," de Blasio told reporters.

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