The Fight Of His Political Life

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 Governor Cuomo with his possible successor, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul. (Office of the Governor)

Even admirers admit that Governor Andrew Cuomo can be a bully, thin-skinned and vindictive.

You can now add “embattled” before his name.

The #metoo movement’s heightened sensibility just might topple the nation’s most powerful, famous and ambitious Democratic governor.

Cuomo’s future hinges partly on an investigation by two lawyers chosen by New York State Attorney General Letitia James to look into charges of sexual harassment.

His former aide Lindsey Boylan, a Democratic candidate for Manhattan Borough president this year, claimed as early as December that the governor had been harassing her for years. Her accusation became more widespread on Feb. 24 and six more women followed with stories of their own. One, anonymous unlike the others, claimed on March 9 that the governor had groped her in the Executive Mansion.

U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on March 12 called for Cuomo to resign.

As of March 12, 59 Democratic members of the legislature have called for the governor to step down, as have 16 of the 19 Democratic congress members.

On March 7, Cuomo—who has maintained his innocence—firmly stated that he would not resign, and would only be removed by impeachment. That was the sentiment he reportedly expressed in a phone exchange with the second most powerful person in state government, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Soon after, she stated that Cuomo ought to step down as his leadership would be affected by the distractions of scandal and investigations.

The third member of the trinity that governs the state as “three persons in a room,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, stopped short of calling for a resignation, but stated, “We have many challenges to address, and I think it is time for the governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.”

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who stands to take over if Cuomo resigns or is removed, called for an “independent review” on Feb. 27. On March 9, she said in a statement, “With yesterday’s announcement launching the independent investigation led by Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark, I am confident everyone’s voice will be heard and taken seriously. I trust the inquiry to be completed as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible. New Yorkers should be confident that through this process they will soon learn the facts.”

On March 11, the state Assembly announced it would open an impeachment investigation.
Five of the six Long Island state senators—all Democrats—who under the state constitution would act as jurors if the Assembly votes to impeach the governor, also weighed in.
Senators Anna M. Kaplan, John Brooks, Todd Kaminsky, Kevin Thomas, and James Gaughran said in a March 12 statement: “The recent allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against the governor are beyond troubling and describe a disturbing pattern of behavior that also now includes a potentially criminal act. The gravity of these claims makes it clear to us that the governor cannot lead the state while faithfully responding to multiple investigations. This is especially true in light of the impending state budget deadline, the need to continue guiding the state through the pandemic, and the fragility of the state’s economic recovery.”

Also on March 12, Democratic Congressmember Thomas Suozzi said in a statement: “The governor is entitled to due process on the many serious and disturbing allegations that have been made against him. I have confidence that the Attorney General and the NYS Assembly will conduct thorough investigations. The governor knows that the state still faces multiple crises that merit the undivided attention of its chief executive. I believe the governor must seriously consider whether he can effectively continue to govern in the midst of these unfolding allegations. If he cannot effectively govern with all of the controversy surrounding him, he must put the interests of all New Yorkers first and he should resign.”

Anton Media Group also reached out to Democratic Congressmember Kathleen Rice for reaction, but did not hear back as of press time. Rice is on record as stating that Cuomo should step down.

The Fall
Less than a year ago Cuomo was riding high midway through his third term and eying a fourth to surpass his father Mario. His daily coronavirus press conferences were must-watch television, and he drew admirers for his no-nonsense style of approaching the pandemic. He even wrote a book about his leadership in the crisis and earned an Emmy for his televised conferences.
Republicans and Cuomo’s opponents charged that his administration was hiding the true figures of nursing home deaths in a state that was the hardest hit by the COVID-19 disease. This came after a Cuomo order that the homes must admit patients who had tested positive and forbid facilities to test prospective residents. The order was reversed under pressure on May 10, but critics contend that many died as a result.

Cuomo’s directive, under difficult circumstances at the beginning of a pandemic that even experts did not fully understand, had done little to dent his popularity, much less threaten his political future. The alleged mishandling failed to gain traction until the past couple of months, when the administration admitted that it had undercounted the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

Then in quick succession came a series of events that have shaken the foundations of his power. Attorney General James said an investigation revealed that the administration undercounted nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent. The FBI is also reportedly investigating the nursing home deaths. On Feb. 12, a Cuomo aide admitted in a call with state Democratic leaders that the governor had intentionally delayed releasing nursing home data due to fears of a federal investigation. Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens revealed a threatening phone call from the governor.

Then came the string of sexual harassment accusations and the governor now finds himself fighting for his political life.

The polls reflect this. According to a March 8 report by the firm Morning Consult, Cuomo’s overall approval rating is down 11 points, to 52 percent since the nursing home scandal broke.

Visit www.longislandweekly.com for a fuller story.

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