New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing non-stop pressure to resign, with seven women now accusing him of sexual harassment—so far. Most of his fellow party members at the state and national levels are abandoning him almost daily. Both of the state’s U.S. senators have called for him to step down and 16 of the 19 of New York’s Democratic congressional delegation have said the same.
Just six months ago, Cuomo was riding the tide of high ratings for his handling of the pandemic and his blunt back-and-forths with former President Donald Trump. In 2018, Cuomo easily defeated Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary and one of the main questions he faced was if he would run for president soon after.
Now, Cuomo will be lucky if he can finish out his third term as governor.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has already started an independent civil inquiry into the allegations and New York state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie authorized the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee to open an impeachment inquiry. For most politicians, this would be enough to call it quits.
Not for Cuomo.
“I just can’t see him quitting,” Christine Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, told The Root. “It’s the only thing he knows and I can’t see him walking away from it. This is a man who’s been in Albany since he was 19 years old. This is what he knows. This is what he does. This behavior is who he is. I think he’s making phone calls and trying to see who he can rally on his side. I think he’s taking notes of who’s supportive and who’s not because he’s been down and out before. Not this far down and out, but he’s had some racial run-ins when it came to Carl McCall and David Patterson. Things have been rough for him before. So, I think he’s going to try and ride it out.”
As far as the phone calls go, Larry Schwartz, head of the state’s vaccine rollout, was reportedly calling county executives in New York to gauge their loyalty to the governor, according to the Washington Post. The calls seem to suggest that vaccine distribution would be contingent on executives’ loyalty to Cuomo.
Greer added that both Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam and Lt. Justin Fairfax were able to survive blackface scandals and sexual assault allegations, respectively, in Virginia. Neither situation mirrors what Cuomo is experiencing, but there is precedence for riding through political storms.
“I think he’s going to make the legislature call its bluff,” Greer added.
For those of you who are curious, an impeachment inquiry in New York State looks a little something like this: The New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee would determine the scope of the investigation. Once the investigation is complete and the committee believes impeachment is warranted, it could release a report or draft articles of impeachment to the Assembly, according to ABC News. Per the New York State constitution, only a simple majority of the 150-member Assembly is needed.
Currently, there are 106 Democrats, 43 Republicans and one independent in the Assembly. After a majority vote, an impeachment trial follows.
Cuomo would lose his power to make decisions, and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, would become governor in the interim, per CNN. The New York Senate, which would be made up of the senators and the judges of the court of appeals, would preside over the trial. Hochul would have no part of the trial, per the state constitution. Two-thirds of the state Senate would have to find Cuomo guilty. Democrats control 43 of the 63 seats in the chamber.
If he is convicted, Cuomo would be removed from office. If he is acquitted, he goes back to being governor again.
Cuomo has long been accused of being a bully and cultivating insufferable work environments. His political opponents say his bullying of political opponents is an “open secret.” In recent days, both the Washington Post and New York Magazine have chronicled the allegations against Cuomo and the work environment he cultivated. There is not a day here in whichNew York locals aren’t reminded of them. His political adversaries think his days are numbered, but some political observers believe he can survive.
“There is a way out of this for him,” Lincoln Mitchell, a political consultant, told The Root. “Time goes by, he doesn’t resign. He doesn’t get impeached. He has a multi-candidate, democratic primary, where he starts out with $20 million in the bank, more than anyone else. The only person that could really clear the field in that situation is somebody like an AOC. But if it’s three or four democratic candidates who see their chance, he holds onto a 30, 35 percent plurality. He wins the primary and then democratic voters in New York are faced with this really terrible choice. Do we vote hypocritically for somebody who I believe is a serial sexual predator, or do we allow Republicans to become governor? Cuomo probably wins that bet and that election.”
Cuomo is probably waiting to see what the voters will have to say about all of this because, as Greer notes, some of them may not react as strongly to these allegations at the ballot box as members of Congress and the state legislatures.
“I think a lot of this is the breakdown across generations and some interesting demographics, but there are a lot of Democrats who are just like, ‘I’m tired of Democrats punishing people within their own party when Republicans don’t do it.’ So that’s not to say that they shouldn’t be punished, but I think some Democrats feel like, ‘Well, can we figure out another way to punish them?’ Because there’s a chance that we could have a Republican governor, which we’ve had before. Pataki was in there for quite a few terms. We’ve had Republican mayors for 20 years in New York. It’s possible to have a Republican,” Greer said. “ I think the difference between say, Al Franken or Ralph Northam was, ‘Well, if you get rid of them, you’re pretty much guaranteed to still have a Democrat.’ Whereas you get rid of Cuomo, that’s actually not guaranteed. You might have a moderate Republican if you can find one. So I think that’s why you’re still seeing some reticence among certain Democrats who were just like, ‘Why are we the only ones who punish for bad deeds?’
A recent poll shows that just 35 percent of New Yorkers want him to resign.
Cuomo’s troubles started with the nursing home scandal in which he is accused of intentionally undercounting COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes across New York state. Calls for his resignation started last fall when questions arose over the exact number of patients dying in nursing homes. In August, the Department of Justice requested information on nursing homes during the pandemic and New York Attorney General Tish James determined in January that the state undercounted nursing home deaths. So he has been in trouble long before the sexual harassment allegations came out.
City and State also outlined how New State leaders may approach Cuomo’s predicament:
The governor meanwhile is stuck in a tough spot and state lawmakers appear to be using this to their full advantage. Proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana suggest they could pass their hot-button proposal even before the April 1 deadline. They may or may not have the votes to do that, but the suggestion of acting alone could make the governor offer additional concessions on the issue moving forward. A similar dynamic could play out with a proposed package of criminal justice reform that would make more people eligible for parole and place new limits on solitary confinement. Democrats also appear eager to push the governor hard on raising taxes on the wealthy though not nearly as hard as activists on the political left want them to.
Protests outside the New York City offices of Heastie and Stewart-Cousins is another sign of how increased leverage against Cuomo puts more political pressure on the legislative leaders from the political left. “Every year the Assembly and Senate have cited the governor as the primary obstacle to reversing the tragedies of historic homelessness and overdose in New York State,” Paulette Soldani, political director at advocacy group VOCAL-NY, said in a March 12 statement.
As serious as the allegations are against Cuomo, the political math of maintaining power is competing with the moral commitment to force a resignation. For now, Cuomo is trying to make it to the 2022 primary. Mitchell says it will be rough, but there is a very real possibility that Cuomo could prevail.
“The New York City mayor’s race is eventually going to dominate the media in New York,” Mitchell said. “It’s just too big a story and that primary sneaking up on us is three months out. There’s other news stories that come up now. He’s not going to have the opportunity to shine on the national stage like he did last year. But the vaccine numbers are looking good, right? He thinks he can play the long game. I don’t know if he can, but I know that he thinks he can.”