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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul Discusses What It Will Take To Move The State Forward

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to the media during her swearing-in ceremony at the New York state Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Tuesday. She became the state's first female governor after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo.
Angela Weiss
AFP via Getty Images
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to the media during her swearing-in ceremony at the New York state Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Tuesday. She became the state's first female governor after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo.

Updated August 25, 2021 at 12:11 PM ET

Kathy Hochul became the first female governor of New York at midnight on Tuesday.

As NPR's Steve Inskeep put it, she's "the first woman to hold that office, although not the first New York governor to take charge after the previous one resigned in disgrace."

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned this month after a report from New York's attorney general concluded that he sexually harassed 11 women and sought to retaliate against one of his accusers. A separate, earlier investigation found that his administration undercounted the number of people who died of COVID-19 in the state's nursing homes.

Hochul spoke with Inskeep about the significance of her new role and what she plans to do in it. Listen to their conversation and read on for excerpts.

Interview highlights

On how she sees her essential task: "Well, my task right now is very immediate. I have to get COVID-19 under control, protect the safety of New Yorkers, and I started with a mask mandate in schools effective immediately, and also get more vaccinations out there. ... I'll be having a very aggressive program to get the boosters out, but there's still a lot of people who never got the first dose, and that's going to be a barrier to getting people feeling secure about going to schools and to work. And so I'm laser-focused on those two big initiatives."

On the rise of COVID-19 cases in New York: "It's very concerning, there's no doubt about it. I was in the trenches during the first months of last year's pandemic. I was literally embedded with the local health officials and county executives in upstate New York, so I know how scary this is and what people went through and I have a different approach. We were successful last year, but also as we see this resurgence, I'm going to be doing more to empower local government officials who spend all their days training for this."

On the statewide school mask mandate she issued: "This is actually the result of outreach I did to school superintendents, school boards, teachers, all kinds of groups I assembled on a Zoom call literally a couple days before I took office. They told me they want this, they just want the cover. They want to be able to go back to their parents at a school board meeting and say 'this is a state mandate, we have to follow it.'"

Hochul added that she believes it's important to start with a statewide mandate but is willing to roll back restrictions on a regional basis depending on local data.

On repairing the state's credibility, especially after the nursing home scandal: "Simply it's about being more transparent ... as of yesterday we're using CDC numbers which will be consistent. And so there's no opportunity for us to mask those numbers, nor do I want to mask those numbers. The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what's happening, whether it's good or bad, they need to know the truth. ... That's what I've done for 27 years of elected office, it's not a new concept to me."

On her approach to governing: "There's gonna be no drama, no surprises from my administration. There's not gonna be a situation where information is revealed about a new policy before I've already had a chance to seek out input from everyone affected by it. That'll never delay my decisions — I gather people quickly, I assess, I listen to experts and then I'm decisive."

On her relationship with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo: "It's no secret that I've not been close to the governor. I've believed in many of the policies that I championed and I worked hard for: increasing the minimum wage, paid family leave, child care initiatives, protecting our gun safety laws ... but also, I've not been in the rooms. I've not been in Albany very much."

"Is this a clean break, then?" Inskeep asked.


This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.