NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Kathy Hochul formally introduced herself to the people of New York on Wednesday afternoon, not as the ribbon-cutting lieutenant governor she was, but as the person whose mission is to heal the state after the months and months of the Andrew Cuomo scandals.
In the halls of the state Capitol, lawmakers are saying, “The king is dead, long live the queen.” But as Hochul made her debut as the first woman to rule New York, her first task was to show she is the anti-Cuomo — not a person who dictates, but rather, a person who negotiates.
“Regarding his decision to step down, I believe it is appropriate and in the best interest of the state of New York. While it was not expected, it is a day for which I am prepared,” Hochul said, adding, “I will fight like hell for you every single day, like I’ve always done and always will.”
WATCH: Kathy Hochul Speaks To The Media On Her Ascension To Governor
Political expert Hank Sheinkopf called Wednesday, “likely the biggest day of Kathy Hochul’s life,” adding she needed to project confidence and the sense that things are going to change and be under control.
Well, when Hochul met the media, she did a lot of that.
“People will soon learn that my style is to listen first, then take decisive action,” Hochul said. “So in 13 days, I will officially become the 57th governor of the state of New York.”
In the meantime, she says she will “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,” she said.
She said upon taking over, she will deliver an address to lay out her vision.
“But make no mistake, our work has already begun,” Hochul said, adding the 14-day transition Cuomo announced Tuesday upon stepping down was not something she wanted. “I’m looking forward to a smooth transition, which he promised. He spoke to me about wanting to make sure the transition to continuity was important, that I would have an opportunity to meet the cabinet officials, other people as well, so they view it as necessary. I’m prepared to take office, as any lieutenant governor is, from the very first hour you are sworn in as lieutenant governor. However, I will take advantage of that time and continue to engage with the people of the state of New York.
“I have a vision but will continue to develop that, and at the end of the 14 days, I look forward to come back to a venue like this and make sure that we are ready to deal with all the challenges that we face,” Hochul added.
A native of Buffalo, Hochul is becoming New York’s instant governor during turbulent times. Not only is she taking over from a control freak whose reputation was besmirched by numerous scandals — sexual harassment being just one — she will have to guide the state through the ongoing pandemic and economic recovery.
“I know this year and a half has been so challenging for families and businesses across our state. Sometimes it feels like it isn’t getting any easier,” Hochul said. “The Delta variant is still raging and it’s going to take all of us to defeat it. Our children are heading back to school soon. There’s a lot of anxiety from moms and dads I speak to, and the teachers as well. It’s going to take all of us working together to keep our children safe, our teachers safe, and anyone who works in the schools safe.”
Sheinkopf said Hochul would go a long way toward establishing herself as the new top dog in town by announcing leadership changes. Though she did not on Wednesday, Sheinkopf said her first target could be replacing Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
“She’s got to show some motion that she’s making change from what existed during the Cuomo years. First move, good bye Howard Zucker. He’s got to find another job. Howard Zucker will be blamed for the chaos of the nursing homes. One way to start new is to get rid of him immediately,” Sheinkopf said.
There will be a lot of pandemic-related decisions to make if Gov. Cuomo doesn’t try to beat her to the punch before he leaves, including new masking requirement and schools reopening. Hochul will also need to show that her ascendancy will mean a culture change in Albany, a willingness to work with lawmakers and compromise.
“I’ve already spoken with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie, labor, business, faith leaders, other state elected officials, as well as our Tri-State governors. I look forward to working with each and every one of them, and all of you to build on the progress that we’ve already started,” Hochul said.
Hochul, 62, will also have to work with the Legislature to decide whether to pursue articles of impeachment against her former boss. On Wednesday, she said it’s too early to address that topic.
Some feel an impeachment trial would just subject the state to more chaos and that it’s best to close the book on Cuomo. But the Assembly Republican Conference wants to go full bore ahead, especially where it concerns nursing homes.
“We intend to hold Gov. Andrew Cuomo accountable on behalf of his victims, including the 15,000 innocent lives lost in nursing homes,” Republican members of the Judiciary Committee said in a statement.
The committee will meet in Albany on Monday to decide next steps.
PHOTOS: Andrew Cuomo Through The Years
Meanwhile, Hochul’s ascendancy is being hailed.
“I think it’s noteworthy that the first woman governor is being brought in to clean up a mess made by a man,” former New York City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn said.
In the days ahead, the new chief executive will have a lot of decisions to make. The governor has hundreds of people who work for her and numerous appointments. In New York City, people will surely be wondering what she’ll do about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where two of Cuomo’s appointees were mentioned in Attorney General Letitia James sexual harassment investigation report.
“At the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment,” Hochul said. “No one named, who was named, as doing anything unethical in the report will remain in my administration.”
Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt called on Hochul to orchestrate a clean sweep.
“I am calling for the immediate resignation of state agency officials with direct ties to the soon-to-be former governor and the many scandals that have plagued state government,” Ortt said.
He singled out Department of Financial Services Commissioner Linda Lacewell, who is a member of the MTA board, and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
One problem for Hochul is that, according to a new Marist poll, she is a relative stranger to many New Yorkers.
When asked to rate her favorability, 64% of New Yorkers say they either never heard of her or were unsure how to rate her.
In addition to picking staff, Hochul is also going to select a new lieutenant governor.
There’s speculation she’ll pick someone from downstate. Names being tossed around are New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who will step in on an interim basis.