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A woman's place: How Albany might change under Hochul and her colleagues

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ALBANY — As Kathy Hochul began her second term as lieutenant governor in 2019, she shared her playbook on succeeding in the male-dominated domain of politics.

“I’ve often been called an iron fist in a velvet glove, which I take as a compliment,” Hochul said in an Instagram video. “I embrace the strengths and assets of my femininity but also, I won’t back down from a fight.”

Hochul, 62, was sworn in as the first woman governor in New York state on Tuesday, giving her an opportunity to put her philosophy into practice on the state’s grandest political stage. But things have changed since 2019: For the first time, women will outnumber men at Albany’s upper echelon of power. She will join Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), the first woman to lead a legislative chamber in Albany, in high-level talks with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

Hochul’s ascension has unfolded in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal as well as a more general reckoning about sexual and cultural politics in Albany and elsewhere. And it comes after a new generation of women politicians has made its mark in Albany not only by confronting the capital’s infamously masculine culture, but by assailing Hochul’s predecessor, Andrew Cuomo. Younger, progressive legislators such as Alessandra Biaggi (D-Westchester), Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) and Yuh-Line Niou (D-Manhattan) made their mark in Albany by directly challenging Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, and the culture that he personified. It was an almost unheard-of breach of protocol, but now it feels like a foreshadowing of the sort of change the new governor represents.

And yet, Hochul still must manage the weight of being “the first woman,” with big expectations and a meager timeline for a complete change in gubernatorial culture she’s promised.

During brief remarks following a swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, Hochul named “changing the culture of Albany” alongside combating Covid-19 and getting direct aid to New Yorkers as her most-immediate priorities.

“I’m looking forward to a fresh collaborative approach,” she said. “That’s how I’ve always conducted myself. It will be nothing new for me, but it is something I’m planning on introducing to the state Capitol.” The delivery was pure velvet. The words were made of iron.

Hochul’s inauguration, which took place about 173 years and 188........

© Politico

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