The pressure on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign is building.
President Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and every member of New York’s Democratic congressional delegation have said the governor should step down, after an investigation by the state attorney general concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed almost a dozen women.
Three prosecutors, in Manhattan, Nassau County and Westchester County, also announced that they had opened separate criminal investigations into his conduct.
Jay Jacobs, the head of the state Democratic Party — and once one of Cuomo’s closest allies — said yesterday that Cuomo’s removal from office was “inevitable.” And a poll from Marist College found that 59 percent of New Yorkers think Cuomo should resign or be impeached.
But Cuomo, who denies that his conduct was inappropriate, has resisted the calls to leave office.
The power of partisanship
Early in the pandemic, Cuomo’s public appearances turned him into one of the Democratic Party’s most celebrated national figures. His approval ratings fell this year following the revelation that his administration had undercounted nursing home Covid deaths and after the harassment allegations that led to the attorney general’s investigation. But more New Yorkers still thought Cuomo should keep his job than resign, polls showed.
Yesterday’s Marist poll suggests that may be changing. Cuomo has never been more vulnerable in his decades in public office, said our colleague Katie Glueck, who covers New York politics. But he may also have reasons to think he can hold on, given the unpredictable nature of the moment.
“It is too early to gauge how the report is resonating with the public, and Cuomo is plainly betting that the good will he generated during the early days of the pandemic will help him survive now,” Katie said.
Some Democrats accused of misconduct in the #MeToo era have resigned under pressure from other members of their party. They include Al Franken, the former Minnesota senator, and Eric Schneiderman, New York’s former attorney general.
In Cuomo’s case, sustained opposition from top Democrats could erode his support even further. “The partisan cues from President Biden on down are that Cuomo should step aside,” Katie said.
But partisanship also colors how voters view scandals, sometimes helping politicians keep supporters in their corner. Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia in 2019 bucked fellow elected Democrats’ calls for him to resign after a blackface scandal, and his approval ratings in the state have since rebounded.
And if Cuomo does choose to stay in office and seek re-election to a fourth term next year, it could fall to voters — and any potential Democratic primary challengers — to decide whether his governorship should end.
The impeachment investigation
The decision to serve out the rest of his term may not be up to Cuomo. The State Assembly, which Democrats control, said this week that it would speed up a wide-ranging impeachment investigation into the harassment allegations and the nursing home deaths.
The investigation began in March, after multiple women publicly accused Cuomo. Some elected Democrats said they could no longer back him, but he retained enough support that the Assembly seemed unlikely to vote on impeachment anytime soon.
“The Assembly’s decision to open a broad investigation, instead of moving to immediately impeach him, basically bought Cuomo some time to hold on to power,” Luis Ferré-Sadurní, who covers Albany for The Times, told us.
After the release of the attorney general’s findings this week, though, many lawmakers and others who stood by Cuomo in March retracted their support. The Assembly’s decision to speed up its investigation could lead to impeachment articles as soon as September.
“Cuomo has virtually no vocal allies these days. His inner circle has shrunk considerably. Top labor leaders have abandoned him,” Katie told us. “After years of dominating New York politics, he finds himself almost totally alone.”
Impeachment in New York is similar to the process for impeaching U.S. presidents. The Assembly votes on impeachment with a simple majority, and the Senate holds a trial and votes on removal, with a two-thirds majority threshold.
There are some differences, though: If Cuomo were impeached, he would have to give up the powers of his office during the trial. The Senate vote would also include the seven judges on the state’s highest court.
If Cuomo does leave office, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, would replace him — becoming New York’s first female governor. “The attorney general’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior,” Hochul said on Tuesday. “No one is above the law.”
For more on Cuomo’s future, listen to today’s episode of “The Daily.”
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