Andrew Cuomo was nearing the end of his decade in New York as governor. He is preparing to hand over his tight grip on government and retire to Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul during a midnight power transfer, which will break another glass ceiling in state politics for women.
Cuomo, a Democrat, was set to end his term at 11:59 p.m., just under two weeks after he announced he would resign rather than face a likely impeachment battle over sexual harassment allegations.
Hochul was to be sworn in as New York’s first woman governor shortly after midnight. This was in a private ceremony that was overseen by Janet DiFiore, the chief judge of New York.
The leadership change took place in the wake of Tropical Storm Henri. Although it missed Long Island on Sunday, it was still dumping potentially hazardous amounts of rain over areas of the Catskill Mountains, Hudson River Valley, and Hudson River Valley.
Cuomo was briefly retracted into the public eye by storm over the weekend. Two televised briefings were given by Cuomo, warning New Yorkers not to ignore the storm with the same mixture of scolding as reassurance that made his COVID-19 briefings so popular.
Cuomo might have felt tempted to delay his resignation if the storm was catastrophic. He said that he would not change his plans as the danger grew. He said Sunday, “My last day is tomorrow.”
Hochul, a Democrat, will face immense challenges when she takes control of an administration that has been criticized for its inaction during Cuomo’s distracted last months.
COVID-19 has not been easy. In the next few weeks, schools will reopen. There are big decisions to make about whether teachers and students should be vaccinated or not. The state’s economic recovery is still slow due to the pandemic.
Cuomo’s resignation comes after an independent investigation overseen by state Attorney General Letitia James concluded there was credible evidence he’d sexually harassed at least 11 women, including an aide who said he groped her breast and has since filed a complaint with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators also said Cuomo’s senior staff retaliated against at least one of those women and worked to undermine the credibility of others.
Cuomo insists that he never touched anyone in an inappropriate manner and called the allegations “unfair” and “untruthful.” However, he said he would not force the state to go through an impeachment trial that he couldn’t win.
Separately, Cuomo was under a legislative investigation to see if he misled the public regarding COVD-19 deaths at nursing homes. To protect his reputation and as a leader in pandemics, he improperly obtained help from state employees to write a pandemic book which could have netted him $5 million.
Cuomo gave few details about his plans and where he will live after he leaves the Executive Mansion. In a recent interview, Cuomo stated to New York magazine that he is “not disappearing.”
He spoke in his resignation speech on Aug. 10 with pride about his record for legalizing homosexual marriage, expanding family leave, and raising the state’s minimum wage to $15.
Hochul will have to quickly create her own team for advisers that can guide the administration over the next minimum of 16 months.
To allow her to interview new employees, she plans to keep Cuomo-era employees on the job for 45 days. However, she said that she would not let anyone who has behaved unethically be kept. According to staff rosters, at least 35 employees from the governor’s office left in February.
Hochul claimed she did not work with Cuomo and was unaware of the harassment allegations. She has pledged that no one will ever label her workplace “toxic.”
“I have a different approach to governing,” Hochul said Wednesday in Queens, adding, “I get the job done because I don’t have time for distractions, particularly coming into this position.”
Hochul already stated that she intends to run for the full four-year term in 2020.
As the state Democratic Party struggles with an internal struggle between liberal and moderate New Yorkers, she’ll be doing so.
Hochul, who was once a representative of a conservative district in Western New York in Congress for one year, has a reputation for being a moderate. She is expected to choose a left-leaning state legislator from New York City to be her lieutenant governor.
State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs praised Hochul as “formidable.”
“She’s very experienced and I think she’ll be a refreshing and exciting new governor,” he stated.