Andrew Cuomo has been replaced as governor of New York after months of allegations of sexual harassment.
Democrat Kathy Hochul became New York’s first female governor at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday, after a brief swearing-in.
Mr Cuomo, 63, officially left office at midnight, two weeks after he announced that he would resign rather than facing a probable impeachment battle.
On the last day of his tenure, Mr. Cuomo released a pre-recorded farewell speech in which he defended his record for more than a decade in the role and presented himself as the victim of a “media frenzy.”
Mr Cuomo’s resignation comes after an independent investigation overseen by state attorney general Letitia James found there was credible evidence that he had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
In his farewell remarks, Mr. Cuomo adopted a defiant tone, saying the attorney general’s report that triggered his resignation was designed to be “a political firecracker on an explosive subject, and it worked.”
“There was a political and media scramble,” he said.
Despite his resignation, Mr. Cuomo faces other legal issues.
An assistant who said he had groped her breast filed a complaint with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office.
Separately, Mr Cuomo faces a legislative inquiry into whether he misled the public about COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes to protect his reputation as a leader of the pandemic and improperly got help from government employees to write a book that could earn him $ 5 million.
Ms Hochul, who said she did not work closely with Mr Cuomo and was unaware of the harassment allegations until they were made public, vowed no one would ever qualify her workplace of “toxic”.
“I have a different approach to governance,” Ms. Hochul said last week, adding: “I do the job because I don’t have time for distractions, especially for this position.”
She announced the planned appointments of two senior staff: Karen Persichilli Keogh will become secretary to the governor and Elizabeth Fine will be Ms. Hochul’s chief legal counsel.
Ms. Hochul’s rise to governor is a historic moment in a capital where women have only recently begun to undermine a notoriously male-dominated political culture.
For the first time, the majority of the most powerful figures in the New York State government will be women, including State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Attorney General and Chief Justice , Janet DiFiore. The State Assembly is headed by one man, President Carl Heastie.
However, Ms Hochul will inherit immense challenges as she takes over an administration criticized for inaction in Mr Cuomo’s final months.
COVID-19 has made a comeback, with new cases rising nearly 1,370% since late June, and hospitalizations are increasing as schools prepare to return in September.
She faces tough choices over whether to impose masks or vaccines on certain groups and reinstate social distancing restrictions.
Meanwhile, the economy remains unstable. Jobs lost during the pandemic are back, but unemployment remains double what it was two years ago.