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Kathy Hochul sworn in as New York's first female governor

New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears

New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul, right, as the first woman to be New York's governor, while her husband, Bill Hochul, holds a bible during a swearing-in ceremony in the Red Room at the state Capitol, early Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Albany. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul became New York’s first female governor early Tuesday with what she promises to be a fresh and more collegial way of running the state after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s decade in office.

Later Tuesday, she is expected to reveal some of her priorities and plans as well as her choice for lieutenant governor.

Just after 9 p.m. Monday, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie released Cuomo’s letter of resignation, effective at midnight.

"I hereby tender my resignation for the office of Governor of the State of New York," Cuomo wrote. "It has been my pleasure to serve with you both."

For the little-known Hochul, of Buffalo, this will be a formal introduction to a statewide audience despite her seven years as lieutenant governor. She will have to balance further distancing of herself from Cuomo while embracing what she called "a strong record of accomplishment" under the Cuomo-Hochul administration.

"It is a day for which I am prepared," she declared after Cuomo announced his resignation Aug. 10 following a report by Attorney General Letitia James that concluded he sexually harassed 11 women. "Make no mistake: Our work has already begun."

It will also be a test of her governing style, which has developed in roles ranging from handling deeds and small business records as the Erie County clerk to Congress, where she was an "independent Democrat" representing a historically Republican district in Western New York.

While she will enjoy a honeymoon period, she will have to grapple with a number of governing and political problems. She will need to help revive New York City’s economy, which had been slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She will also have to address the increasing cases of the virus and decide whether to mandate wearing masks and take other preventive measures in schools.

Politically, she will have to deal with a rising progressive-socialist movement within her own party, which may push the State Legislature further to the left than she might prefer.

"It’s a very volatile time," said veteran political strategist Hank Sheinkopf. "The factions within the Legislature will be very difficult to control because the left will be out for Hochul — they see opportunity."

On Monday, she gave a glimpse of the incoming Hochul administration. She said her secretary to the governor will be Karen Persichilli Keogh, a Nassau County native and seasoned and widely respected Democratic operator.

Keogh worked in the U.S. Senate under Hillary Clinton as well as on Wall Street. She grew up in Baldwin and now will hold the top administration post, also known as the governor’s chief of staff.

"She’s a competent, no-nonsense, experienced insider and outsider who understands both the private and public sectors," Sheinkopf said of Keogh. "It was a smart move and it tells you what [Hochul] is thinking."

Keogh was the New York state director and campaign manager for then-Sen. Clinton and supervised Clinton’s state staff, which helped the senator respond to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Keogh also managed the 2009 transition of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) from the House of Representatives and was a senior political adviser to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign. She most recently worked as head of global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase & Co. She had joined the company in 2010 as managing director and head of state and local government relations.

She graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in social work and from Columbia University with a master’s degree in clinical industrial social work.

A 2007 profile in The New York Times described Keogh as an "endlessly reliable organizational whiz and fixer-upper who keeps Senator Clinton’s New York City headquarters on the ball and on message."

That’s a critical role for Hochul, serving in her first chief executive role with only a two-week transition.

"As governor, I will assemble a strong team to turn the corner on the pandemic and serve the best interests of New York, whether it's defeating COVID, getting more people vaccinated, or strengthening our economy," Hochul said Monday.

Hochul also named Elizabeth Fine as her counsel. Fine has been the executive vice president and general counsel of Empire State Development, which is the state’s primary economic development agency. She previously worked as counsel to former Attorney General Janet Reno in the administration of President Bill Clinton and for the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee. She graduated from Brown University and received law degrees from the New York University School of Law and Georgetown Law School.

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