Andrew Cuomo is sworn in as New York's 56th Governor
By NICK REISMAN & JOSEPH SPECTOR
Gannett Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- Andrew Cuomo was sworn in as New York's 56th governor Friday night, taking the oath of office in a private ceremony at the Executive Mansion.
The event was an emotional return for Cuomo and his family, who occupied the mansion during the 12 years his father, Mario, served as governor from 1983 through 1994.
It was also a pinnacle moment in the long political career for Cuomo, 53, who ran his father's first campaign in 1982 and long sought to hold the seat himself one day. Mario; Andrew's mother, Matilda; and his three daughters and girlfriend, Food Network personality Sandra Lee, were among the roughly 80 people to attend the ceremony, aides said.
Surrounded by their families, Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy were sworn into office separately by the state's chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, at 10:09 p.m. They officially took office at midnight. Cuomo, a Democrat, succeeds Gov. David Paterson, a fellow Democrat who did not seek election.
"I am honored and humbled to accept this tremendous responsibility," Cuomo said in a statement Friday night. "The time has come to return integrity, performance and dignity to New York and make it the Empire State once again. I look forward to getting to work right away for the people of our great state."
Cuomo will give an inaugural address Saturday at noon, after holding an 8:30 a.m. staff meeting. He will greet about 300 New Yorkers at the mansion Saturday afternoon.
But the day will be without the lavish celebrations that have marked previous inaugurations, signaling the state's fiscal troubles.
The stakes are high for Cuomo, who easily won election against Republican Carl Paladino. The state has burgeoning budget gaps, crushing property taxes and a Capitol struggling through myriad scandals.
Cuomo, the attorney general for the past four years, has vowed to limit state spending, cap property taxes and clean up Albany's ethics woes.
Duffy said Friday that the state's period of crisis is an opportunity to restore New York's proud tradition of innovation and again make it a "shining example" across the country. Duffy said he hopes New Yorkers will rally around Cuomo's vision to revamp the state, a message that will be prominent in Saturday's inauguration events.
"New York state is in the midst of a crisis right now, and the governor has an opportunity to really help transform this state -- and to be a part of that is just an incredible honor," Duffy said in an interview Friday with Gannett's Albany Bureau.
Duffy had a private dinner with family at an Albany restaurant before heading a few blocks to the governor's mansion with his wife and two daughters to join the Cuomo family prior to the swearing in.
"It is very exciting. The best way I could describe it is that I'm both honored and humbled that Governor Cuomo would invite me to be a member of his team," Duffy, the outgoing Rochester mayor, said.
"I loved my job as mayor. I love Rochester and to step away from that to join the governor reinforces how much I believe in him and what he's going to do over the next four years."
At the mansion, pasta, chicken and New York wines were on the menu for the buffet-style dinner for about 40 people. Mansion staff did the cooking, not the famous chef Lee.
Aides said Cuomo planned to be sworn in on the Bible he used when he became attorney general in 2006. Lee held the Bible. A recording of the swearing-in was shown statewide Friday night on news stations.
Cuomo was making the inauguration weekend a working one. He planned staff meetings Saturday and Sunday.
He announced Friday he is nominating former banking executive Thomas Mattox as the commissioner of Taxation and Finance and Ellen Nachtigall Biben, who handled public fraud cases in the state attorney general's office, as the new inspector general -- a post that investigates state government.
The inaugural address will focus on a message of fiscal austerity and restoring integrity to state government.
The speech in the Capitol's War Room near the governor's office will last about 45 minutes before an audience of 175 people, mainly family and friends.
Cuomo is expected to speak for about 10 to 15 minutes and provide a framework for how he will govern New York, the problems the state faces and discuss his plans to appeal to the general public into helping make needed changes to state government, aides said.
The ceremony will also feature the swearing in of Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, both Democrats, to four-year terms.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, an Orthodox Jew who will be observing the Sabbath, will not attend the ceremony, but will send a representative.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, and Senate Democratic leader John Sampson of Brooklyn will be present, as will Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County.
Kolb said he expects Cuomo's speech to discuss the many issues facing New York and how the new governor plans to tackle them.
"I'm hopeful it's going to be a recognition that we have serious challenges to face, an outline of his priorities and a tone of working together," Kolb said.
A receiving line with Cuomo and Duffy is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the mansion.
Cuomo is eschewing the lavish gubernatorial inaugurations of his predecessors. When Democrat Eliot Spitzer took office four years ago, James Taylor and Natalie Merchant performed concerts in Albany and Spitzer took the oath on an outdoor platform.
Former Republican Gov. George Pataki in 1994 held a black-tie dinner after he was sworn in.
Cuomo, hoping to set the tone of austerity as the state faces a $9.2 billion budget deficit, is expected to spend $30,000 to $40,000 on the event, which will be paid out of his campaign account.
Here is a look at Andrew Cuomo's schedule for Saturday.
-- 8 a.m.: Arrives at Capitol building for first official day as governor.
-- 8:30 a.m.: Huddles with senior staff and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy.
-- Noon: Holds inaugural ceremony in the Capitol Building's War Room outside of the Executive Chamber.
-- 2 p.m.: Holds receiving line at the Executive Mansion with Duffy.