Kathy Hochul was sworn in as governor of New York early this morning. She made history as the first woman to hold the position.
Governor Hochul replaced former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned from office after significant evidence showed that he had sexually harassed multiple women. Cuomo, facing impeachment, officially stepped down as governor last night.
“At the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic environment,” Governor Hochul said at a press conference. “I want people to know that I’m ready for this. It’s not something that we expected or asked for, but I am fully prepared to assume the responsibility as 57th governor of the State of New York.”
Hochul, a former congressperson from Buffalo, New York, has worked as lieutenant governor for seven years. She has already begun to appoint her aides, naming Karen Persichilli Keogh as Secretary to the Governor and Elizabeth Fine as chief legal counselor. Hochul has vowed to dismiss any of the former governor’s staff who were “named as doing anything unethical.”
Cuomo resigned from office after months of investigation by the state attorney general’s office into accusations of sexual harassment made against him. 11 women came forward with reports that Cuomo had sexually harassed them. A report by the state attorney general’s office released in August found Cuomo guilty of harassing the 11 women.
One survivor, Brittany Commisso, was an employee of Cuomo’s who he sexually harassed multiple times at work.
“If I told someone, I’m done,” Commisso told the Times Union. “And who do you tell?”
Several other former Cuomo staffers suffered similar abuses. Lyndsey Boylan, the first woman to publicly come forward with her experience of being sexually harassed by Cuomo, began working for the Cuomo Administration in 2015. She resigned in 2018 after years of workplace harassment.
“I am speaking up because I have the privilege to do so when many others do not. No one should have to be defined or destroyed by this kind of sexual harassment. Nor should they be revictimized if they decide to speak their own truth,” Boylan wrote in February. “I hope that sharing my story will clear the path for other women to do the same.”
Governor Hochul has distanced herself from Cuomo, saying that she did not work closely with the former governor. She already faces many challenges as governor, including the rapid spread of coronavirus cases across New York and distributing rental assistance as the state’s eviction moratorium will soon expire this month.
She has said that she plans to run for governor next year.
Sources: CNN 8/24/21; New York Times 8/24/21; New York Times 8/11/21; NPR 8/24/21; NPR 8/9/21; New York Attorney General 8/3/21; Medium 2/24/21