By Peter Szekely
NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York Governor-to-be Kathy Hochul declared on Thursday that she would seek election to the office in 2022 after completing the unexpired term of Andrew Cuomo, who is stepping down later this month after a rash of sexual harassment allegations.
“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, 62, who has been New York’s lieutenant governor since 2015, said in announcing her candidacy on NBC’s “Today” program.
With a wide-ranging impeachment probe pending and his supporters abandoning him, Cuomo, 63, said on Tuesday that he would resign in 14 days.
Cuomo’s announced departure followed a scathing report by state Attorney General Letitia James that found he had unlawfully sexually harassed 11 women and presided over a toxic workplace.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing, although he said on Tuesday he accepted “full responsibility” for what he characterized as ill-conceived attempts to be affectionate or humorous.
Hochul, who has been in her low-profile No. 2 position since the start of Cuomo’s second term, will assume the state’s top political job as New York grapples with the lingering effects of a stubborn COVID-19 pandemic. She will be the state’s first woman governor.
No other Democratic politicians have declared their interest in seeking the office, although there has been speculation that James herself might run. The New York attorney general’s office has been a gateway for two governors in the past two decades, Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer.
Another name bandied about in political circles has been New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is leaving office at the end of the year.
Hochul, a former U.S. representative and one-time town board member in Hamburg, a town of some 55,000 people near her native Buffalo, would have the advantage of incumbency if she faces a field of Democratic challengers.
In her “Today” interview, she distanced herself from Cuomo and the harassment allegations, saying it was well-known that he had kept her at arm’s length during his tenure.
“I’ve not been in the rooms when this has happened and it is actually sickening to me to see this surface,” she said.
Hochul also vowed to oust any Cuomo aide who was named in the James report as being complicit in “any kind of unethical behavior.”
“They’re gone on Day 1, so let’s get that very clear,” she said.
(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)