The western New York Democrat who captured a surprise victory in a special election after focusing her campaign on Republican plans to reshape Medicare was sworn into office in the House on Wednesday.
Kathy Hochul (HOE'-kuhl) was elected last week in an outcome that buoyed Democrats still jarred by their loss of House control in the 2010 elections. The conservative district, which curls among rural and suburban towns between Buffalo and Rochester, had long been represented by Republicans.
In brief remarks to her new colleagues after she took the oath from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Hochul spoke of the need for "a spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation," making no specific mention of Medicare.
"Today I enter these chambers confident that we can tackle the challenges that are presented to us. We can and must find common sense solutions to the problems facing each of our districts and our country," she said.
Her swearing in was met by a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle in the largely full House chamber, though clapping and cheers were louder from Democrats.
In comments to reporters earlier in the day, Hochul said she believed her election signaled a need to address top issues including the needs "to protect our seniors" and curb the government's huge and growing $14.3 trillion national debt.
She said that should be done by controlling factors that are making Medicare and health care costs overall more expensive, adding, "I'm not talking about beneficiaries receiving less, which is a different set of priorities."
Hochul focused late advertising on support her Republican opponent, Jane Corwin, voiced for a House GOP budget that would transform Medicare health care coverage for the elderly into a voucher program. In one ad, she accused Corwin of backing Medicare cuts to pay for more tax cuts for the rich. Top Democrats have said they plan to use Hochul's emphasis on Medicare in next year's congressional contests.
Hochul, 52, an attorney and former Erie County, N.Y., clerk, took the oath as her husband, two children, parents and other relatives watched from the House visitors' gallery.
Republicans now control the House by a 240-193 margin, with two vacancies.