ALBANY (CN) — Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who will serve out the remainder of Andrew Cuomo's third term after he steps down amid sexual harassment allegations, said on Thursday she plans to run for governor in her own right next year.
“Yes, I will,” the governor-in-waiting said, two days after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation from office on Tuesday morning in the wake of a report that found evidence for nearly a dozen allegations of sexual harassment.
Hochul was speaking on NBC’s “Today” this morning when she made her first public indication that she’ll run in 2022, at the conclusion of her four-year term serving as lieutenant governor.
“I fully expect to,” she continued. “I’m the most prepared person to assume this responsibility, and I’m going to ask the voters for their faith in me again."
Hochul, a 62-year-old Democrat from western New York, is set to become the state's first female governor in two weeks, following a transition period in which Cuomo has said he will work to ease her into a job that he dominated during his three terms in office.
Once in command, Hochul plans to purge from her administration any Cuomo aides in the executive chamber who were implicated in unethical behavior by the New York attorney general's investigation of his behavior toward women. “Nobody will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment,” Hochul said in her first news briefing on Wednesday after the Democratic governor announced his resignation a day earlier.
New York’s lieutenant governor, who acts as president of the state Senate, runs alone in primaries and then is linked to the party’s gubernatorial candidate on a ticket in the general election.
Cuomo selected Hochul as his running mate in the 2014 New York gubernatorial election; after they won the election, Hochul was inaugurated as lieutenant governor of New York. Cuomo and Hochul were reelected in 2018.
In the 2018 Democratic primary, the incumbent Hochul defeated challenger Jumaane Williams — then a city councilman, now NYC public advocate — 53.3% to 46.7%.
“People will soon learn that my style is to listen first, then take decisive action,” Hochul reassured New Yorkers unfamiliar with her at her Wednesday press briefing.
Prior to sharing a gubernatorial ticket with Cuomo, she was a county clerk who opposed the idea of allowing unauthorized immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses — an idea that would become law during Cuomo's administration.
Cuomo's exit comes a week after state Attorney General Letitia James released the results of an independent investigation on Aug. 3, finding that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women.
James expressed her support for Hochul’s ascension to the governor’s mansion following news of Cuomo’s resignation. “I know our state is in good hands with Lieutenant Governor Hochul at the helm, and I look forward to continuing to work with her,” James wrote in a statement Tuesday.
The Democratic Cuomo, 63, has been elected three times and previously planned to seek a fourth term in the 2022 election.
Scandal jettisoned those plans in 2020, undercutting the national prominence Cuomo had briefly attained for his leadership of New York when the state was an early epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
While also battling charges that his administration underreported Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, Cuomo was hit last year with allegations from former aides who said he touched them without their consent, made sexually suggestive and gender-based comments, and used retaliatory tactics to keep them quiet.
Leaders in the state Legislature have yet to say whether they plan on dropping an impeachment investigation that has been ongoing since March, and which had been expected to conclude in the coming weeks.
In addition to examining his conduct with women, lawyers hired by the state Assembly had been investigating whether the administration' manipulated data on Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and whether Cuomo improperly got help from his staff writing a book about the pandemic.
Republicans have urged the Democratic-controlled state Legislature to go ahead with impeachment, possibly to prevent Cuomo from running for office again.
Hochul declined Thursday on "Today" to weigh in on whether she believes impeachment proceedings against Cuomo should proceed, pledging that the Assembly’s proceedings will be conducted separately and “parallel” to her focus on Covid-19 as governor.
Possible Republican challengers for governor in 2022 include Rudy Giuliani's son Andrew and Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin.
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