In the days following the publication of a report from the New York State attorney general concluding Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sexually harassed nearly a dozen women, the governor’s top and most-trusted aide resigned, another former aide filed a criminal complaint against him, and calls for Cuomo to resign reached the top echelons of the Democratic Party, including President Biden – making it now a question if when, rather than if, Cuomo’s governorship will end.
As the state Assembly is nearing a close to its impeachment inquiry into these sexual harassment claims, as well as other instances in which the governor may have abused the power of his office, Cuomo is left with a dilemma: either step down or be forcibly removed from office by the legislature. When sexual misconduct allegations first surfaced in February and March, Cuomo made it clear he did not intend to resign, and doubled down on that stance following the release of the AG’s report, maintaining he did not do anything wrong and that his words and actions were simply misinterpreted by these women.
“I have lived my entire adult life in public view, that is just not who I am, and that’s not who I have ever been,” Cuomo said in pre-taped remarks addressing the AG’s report.
However, it is becoming more difficult for Cuomo to sustain this position as recent news reports have noted that he does not want an impeachment to be a part of his legacy. In attempts to avoid a disgraceful departure from the office he’s held for a decade, Cuomo and his staff have tried to negotiate with top state officials, saying he won’t seek a fourth term if the impeachment threat goes away, as reported by The City’s Josefa Velásquez. No one, according to the report, is taking that offer seriously.
More pressure was placed on Cuomo following the weekend after his longtime and trusted aide, Melissa DeRosa, who served as the secretary to the governor, resigned from her post. DeRosa was implicated in Cuomo’s alleged wrongdoings via the AG’s report, which said she played a role in a retaliation effort against Lindsey Boylan, who was the first to raise allegations against the governor. In her statement announcing her departure, DeRosa did not acknowledge the AG’s report’s findings, but stated “the past two years have been emotionally and mentally trying.” Political observers noted DeRosa’s resignation signals that she does not believe the governor will prevail in the impeachment process, which is becoming increasingly imminent.
Likewise, State Senator Brad Hoylman told Our Town that there is no way forward for the governor.
“He’s radioactive politically, as he should be. [There’s] not a single elected official – state, city, or federal – who’s supporting Gov. Cuomo, remaining in office,” Hoylman said. “I think we’ve reached a point of near crisis.”
Hoylman, who represents the 27th district encompassing much of Manhattan’s West Side, said one of his greatest concerns is the federal money marked for COVID-19 recovery that he feels is now hanging in the balance. The senator also said that even before the AG’s report was released, the allegations against the governor had affected the work the state was trying to get done – namely the Empire Station Complex in Midtown.
“You feel like you’re an alternate reality, because this is such a personal plan of the governor’s: to build 20 million square feet of new office space in Midtown,” he said. “To begin with I think it’s an outrage, but it’s very hard to put aside the political realities that he’s going to be removed from office if he doesn’t step down first.”
“For the sake of the future of New York, I hope he resigns as soon as possible,” said Hoylman, who is among the overwhelming majority of state senators who have called on the governor to step down.
Upper East Side Assembly Member Dan Quart, who called on the governor to resign back in March, sits on the Judiciary Committee that is currently handling the impeachment inquiry and is urging New Yorkers to be patient as the committee does its due diligence.
“It can’t be done overnight. As much as the public, and maybe many of us in the legislature, would like to move this immediately, that’s just not possible,” Quart told Our Town. “We’ll move expeditiously. We want to come to conclusion on this.”
On top of the sexual harassment allegations, the Assembly Judiciary Committee is also considering whether the Cuomo administration covered up COVID-19 nursing home deaths and if it mishandle construction of the Mario Cuomo Bridge. Quart attributed the broad scope of the committee’s inquiry and vast materials needed to review to the longer timeline in which it will take in order to come to a conclusion on the question of impeachment.
As reported Monday by the New York Times, articles of impeachment might not be considered until early September. The report is consistent with what Quart told Our Town, stating that lawmakers plan to fully review the evidence and hold hearings in the weeks to come. The Judiciary Committee must first recommend impeachment to the Assembly, and its Democratic Majority in particular.
If a simple majority of the Assembly votes to impeach Cuomo, he will be removed from his office and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will step in as acting governor while the Senate holds a trial.
Hochul has kept a low profile in the midst of the crisis surrounding Cuomo, and surrogates have said she is prepared to take over as the state’s executive if and when she is called upon. In response to the AG’s report, Hochul called Cuomo’s behavior “repulsive and unlawful.”
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service,” she said in a statement. “I believe these brave women & admire their courage coming forward.”
If the Senate convicts, Cuomo would be permanently ousted and Hochul will serve out the rest of his term. He would be only the second governor in the state’s history to be impeached.
“For the sake of the future of New York, I hope he resigns as soon as possible.” State Senator Brad Hoylman