ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday became the first woman sworn in to a full term as New York’s governor, celebrating the historic moment in an inaugural ceremony, promising to tackle crime and housing affordability, and declaring the day belonged in part to the “little girls and young women” seeing another glass barrier broken.
Hochul already made history by becoming New York’s first woman governor in August 2021 after Andrew M. Cuomo resigned amid sexual harassment allegations. But she notched another first when she defeated Republican Lee Zeldin in November to become the first woman in the state elected to a full four-year term.
It was a precedent referenced repeatedly by a slew of Democratic officials at an two-hour inaugural ceremony, including the governor herself.
“Two and a half centuries ago, George Clinton took the oath of office to become New York’s first governor. I can tell you right now, not a soul in that place dreamed of the day when a woman would be elected and take the same oath to lead this great state,” Hochul, a 64-year-old Buffalo Democrat, told a crowd of about 2,000 at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, which is part of the State Capitol complex.
She was sworn in along with the other members of a Democratic ticket that swept New York’s statewide contests: Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck, Attorney General Letitia James of Brooklyn and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli of Great Neck Plaza.
Sunday marked the first of several January milestones for the governor.
On Jan. 10, she’ll deliver a State of the State address, outlining her themes for the year. In late January, she’ll propose a state budget, converting her priorities into dollars for the State Legislature to consider.
Sunday’s inaugural was the least detailed and most ceremonial, as the governor herself acknowledged with a joke, telling the audience to save up time for later in the month.
Sunday was more of a celebration. It featured a Hochul biographical video, a raft of speakers and a poem, “In My Mind,” delivered by 8-year-old Kayden Hern of Harlem, the “poet laureate of the inauguration” who garnered a lengthy standing ovation.
In a roughly 25-minute speech, the governor referenced “twin tragedies” that struck her hometown in her first year in office: a mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store and the recent deadly blizzard that killed dozens in the Buffalo area.
She touched lightly on the upcoming session and “fights we have to take on” this year: making streets and subways safer, making New York more affordable, reversing out-migration, addressing hate crimes and bigotry, and tacking the “gun violence epidemic.”
And she invoked a laundry list of what she called New York’s women trailblazers: Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, Hillary Clinton, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Hochul wore all white to honor suffragists.
“They embodied the courage and character that still defines New Yorkers to this today. And above all, they were fighters,” Hochul said. “Now, as I stand here before you, humbled by this honor, I’m ready to take on the fight.”
And she revived a line she used when she ascended from lieutenant governor to take over for Cuomo, that she “didn’t come here to make history” but to “make a difference.”
“I may be the one standing before you, but this day does not belong to me alone,” Hochul said. “This day belongs to the New York women and men who take care of the rest of us.”
She cited health care workers toiling through the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency responders, farmers, teachers, waitresses, hotel workers and union members — name-checking some key allies in her election campaign.
And in the end, Hochul worked back to the history of the moment.
“And this day belongs to the little girls and young women who will grow up knowing that from this day forward, there are no barriers they can’t overcome,” Hochul said.
Next up, of course, is the hard work of the legislative session. She’s a moderate Democrat who will be dealing with a more liberal, Democratic-dominated Legislature and a Republican minority energized by what was the closest gubernatorial election in the state since 1994.
While awaiting more details of what a Hochul agenda might look like, a leading Republican on hand for the ceremony said he was optimistic Hochul, now sworn in. was taking a broader view of the state’s problems.
“I was happy she raised the problem of crime, the affordability of living in New York and out-migration in New York,” said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R-Pulaski). “I’m glad at least she recognized it so now we can work together to find solutions.”