The New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that she was ready to take over from Andrew Cuomo as governor in two weeks time and vowed not to have a “toxic” job like Cuomo reportedly had for three terms.
Hochul also said she would get rid of any Cuomo employees involved in “unethical” behavior in order to get revenge on at least one of the several women who accused the disgraced Democratic governor of sexual harassment.
“The governor and I were not close,” Hochul told reporters at their first press conference the day after Cuomo stunned the state by announcing that he was stepping down later that month to avoid almost certain impeachment.
“And when my term ends, no one will ever call my term a toxic work environment.”
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a press conference at the New York State Capitol on August 11, 2021 in Albany, New York.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
Hochul also said, “I am fully ready to take on the responsibility of the 57th Governor of New York.”
Hochul, whose term as governor expires in late 2022, said she has held meetings and phone calls with members of the New York Legislature, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., former Senator Hillary Clinton, and the business community and religious leaders and other governors of the northeastern states.
“I will continue to meet with current and potential cabinet officials for the next two weeks,” she said.
“I’m going to grow my executive staff. And I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll be traveling across the state to meet New Yorkers, listen to them, and reassure them that I stand behind them.” Hochul said she expected to elect her own lieutenant governor within the next two weeks before becoming governor herself.
Cuomo, 63, resigned a week after a bombing report by Attorney General Letitia James concluded that he sexually molested 11 women, including current and former government officials, and ran a “toxic” environment in the governor’s office.
James said Cuomo violated federal and state law with his unsolicited touching and sexually suggestive comments.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo arrives for departure in his helicopter after announcing his resignation in New York City on August 10, 2021.
Caitlin Ox | Reuters
The report also found that senior Cuomo officials, including Melissa DeRosa, retaliated against former government official Lindsey Boylan after she went public with her allegations of harassment by Cuomo.
He denied sexually molesting people, but admitted that some of his comments made women uncomfortable and apologized for them.
“Nobody named in this report who does anything unethical will stay in my government,” said Hochul, a Buffalo Democrat who turns 63 later this month.
She refused to answer a question from a reporter about whether she would pardon Cuomo if he is charged with alleged harassment.
Five prosecutors across the state are known to be investigating whether the governor has committed such crimes in their respective counties.
“It is far too premature to even have such talks,” said Hochul about a possible pardon for Cuomo, whose behavior she described last week as “repulsive” and “unlawful”.
But Hochul responded when asked if she, as governor, would publish data on Covid-related deaths of nursing home patients in the state.
The Cuomo administration has controversially suppressed this data, even as Cuomo himself landed a multi-million dollar book deal for his report on how he led New York through the coronavirus pandemic.
“My administration will be completely transparent when I am governor,” said Hochul.
“I’m not governor yet.”
She said she spoke with Cuomo about assuming the governor’s office.
“I’m looking forward to a smooth transition that he promised,” said Hochul.
“He spoke to me about wanting to make sure the transition to continuity is important and that I have the opportunity to meet the cabinet officials and other people as well.”
She said she was unaware of the sexual harassment of women by Cuomo – or the bullying nature of his executive office – but also said she was strongly committed to his government’s policies.
“In terms of the particular environment and reputation of the current government, I think it’s pretty clear and it’s no secret that we weren’t close,” said Hochul. “And I wasn’t associated with it.”
But she added, “I know the job, I’ve fought for the same politics, so I’m better prepared for this position than anyone could ever be.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference Wednesday that President Joe Biden expects to speak to Hochul in the coming days.
Biden looks forward to working with Hochul to “keep the pandemic under control, get the people of New York back to work, and move forward as a federal and state partner,” said Psaki.
Hochul announced at her press conference that Biden tried to call her while she was on a plane on Wednesday.
Hochul became lieutenant governor of Cuomo in 2014.
She served the remainder of a single term in Congress after winning a 2011 special election and previously held a number of local offices in New York.
Correction: Kathy Hochul served the remainder of a single term in Congress after winning a 2011 special election. An earlier version incorrectly stated the duration.