“At the end of my term, whenever it ends, nobody will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment,” Hochul said in her first news briefing in Albany, New York, after Cuomo announced his resignation on Aug. 10 following allegations of sexual harassment.
Hochul will become New York’s first female governor on Aug. 24, the effective date of Cuomo’s resignation.
“I’m fully prepared to assume the responsibilities of the 57th governor of New York,” the 62-year-old Democrat from western New York said on Aug. 11.
“I know the job. I fought for the same policies. That’s why I’m more prepared than anyone could possibly be for this position.”
She noted that the two-week transition period “was not what [she] asked for,” but that she looks forward to a “smooth transition, which [Cuomo] promised.”
“Over the next two weeks, I will continue meetings with current and potential Cabinet officials,” Hochul said. “I’ll build out my senior staff. And I’ll do what I’ve always done. I will travel the state to meet New Yorkers, to listen to them, to assure them that I’ve got their backs.”
Cuomo’s resignation comes after the state attorney general concluded in a report that Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women and that his staff had mishandled allegations against him.
Hochul said she wouldn’t retain any Cuomo staffer who was implicated in “unethical” behavior in retaliating against the women who alleged Cuomo harassed them.
The report found that Cuomo aides, including Melissa DeRosa, had retaliated against former staffer Lindsey Boylan after she announced sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.
Cuomo’s departure announcement came shortly after DeRosa resigned.
The 63-year-old Cuomo has denied the allegations against him and said that the claims were politically motivated.
But he said that a likely impeachment trial would pose a challenge for New York amid the pandemic, so it was best for him to “step aside and let government get back to governing.”
An impeachment investigation into Cuomo has been underway in the state legislature since March over his conduct with women, as well as his administration’s underreporting of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and whether he received help from staffers in writing a book about dealing with the pandemic.
The investigation was set to finish in the upcoming weeks. Lawmakers have yet to say whether they’ll drop the impeachment investigation.
When asked how she would handle nursing home deaths, Hochul said her administration would be “fully transparent.”
Hochul became Cuomo’s second lieutenant governor in 2014.
Before sharing a ticket with Cuomo, Hochul was a county clerk who opposed the idea of allowing illegal immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses—an idea that would become law during Cuomo’s administration.
Asked on Aug. 11 about what’s known as the Green Light Law, Hochul said her position “has now evolved and that evolution coincides with the evolution of many people” in New York.
“I’m proud of supporting that law,” she said.
Hochul faces 16 months left in the term, which concludes in late 2022. She must decide whether she wants to run in the election in November 2022 to secure four more years as governor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.