A year ago, no one would have believed it.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fame and popularity internationally soared in 2020 as he became a fixture of the United State’s pandemic response when the first wave of COVID-19 hit New York that March. Cuomo’s more than 110 consecutive daily coronavirus briefings garnered millions of viewers nationwide, providing Americans a sense of stability during a wildly uncertain time.
The governor’s decision Tuesday to resign caused a tidal wave from his former political allies and foes alike on the heels of last week’s release of the attorney general’s office’s report concluding Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, including many former and current state staffers.
President Joe Biden praised Gov. Cuomo for his achievements Tuesday as he lauded his decision to resign over the sexual harassment allegations.
“I respect his decision,” the president said of Cuomo, a fellow Democrat and longtime friend.
Asked about his close partnership with Cuomo, Biden sought to distinguish the governor’s personal failings from his record as a leader.
“He’s done a helluva job,” Biden told reporters at a press conference Tuesday. “On everything from access to voting to infrastructure. That’s why it’s so sad.”
Biden bristled at a follow-up question about whether it’s possible to separate Cuomo’s flaws from his successes.
“The question is: Did he do a good job on infrastructure,” Biden said. “That was the question. He did.”
Biden joined widespread calls for the governor to resign Aug. 3 following the release of the attorney general’s report.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen “Kathy” Hochul, a Democrat, will become the state’s first female leader when Cuomo leaves office Aug. 24.
“New York will finally have its first female governor and we could not be in better hands,” state Democratic Chair Jay S. Jacobs said Tuesday. “From assisting her mother run a transitional domestic violence shelter to helping make the property tax cap permanent, Kathy Hochul has always and relentlessly fought for the people of New York. Her experience at all levels of government – town board member, county clerk, congresswoman and lieutenant governor, makes her uniquely well-equipped to effectively govern the state at this time.”
Other fellow Democrats noted they will help oversee a smooth transition of power when Hochul becomes the state’s leader.
“The governor has done the right thing,” said state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a former supporter of the governor. “New York is facing many challenges as we battle the ongoing impact of COVID-19. My team and I stand ready to assist incoming Gov. Hochul as we move the state forward.”
Officials were united Tuesday in supporting Cuomo’s departure in all levels of government.
“Stepping down was inevitable, overdue and the only path forward for Andrew Cuomo,” Assembly Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, said in a statement. “The scandals surrounding the governor’s office have generated one of the darkest periods in state history, and it’s fortunate the governor finally came to the realization that his resignation is clearly in the best interest of New York. What’s next for Andrew Cuomo remains to be seen, with multiple investigations on a number of issues still active.”
The fate of the Assembly’s ongoing impeachment probe into the governor was unclear Tuesday. The Assembly Judiciary Committee leading the scandal-rich investigation to potentially remove the governor from office could continue after Cuomo leaves office if lawmakers decide to convict and bar him from holding future public office.
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-1, the presumptive Republican and Conservative nominee for governor in the 2022 election, said Cuomo’s demeanor while delivering his 20-minute resignation speech reveals he is leaving office to avoid repercussions for his actions.
“He knows he would be impeached — he knows he would be voted out of office,” Zeldin said in a statement. “Andrew Cuomo broke the law and criminal repercussions must follow, despite him no longer serving in public office. From his deadly nursing home order and coverup, to his $5.1 million self-congratulatory book deal and serial harassment and abuse of others, he’s been unfit to continue serving for a long period of time.”
Zeldin railed against Hochul, who was largely uninvolved with Cuomo’s inner circle, taking the state’s helm.
“Kathy Hochul has been silent scandal after scandal, from fatal nursing home policies and coverups to rampant harassment, intimidation, bullying and abuse,” Zeldin added. “...Every New Yorker, regardless of who they vote for, where they live or how much they make, deserves much better than this. The last three Democrat governors have left office embroiled in scandal. Albany corruption is systemic, fundamental and real.”
Cuomo, the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, is the state’s third leader in a row to leave due to scandal — all Democrats. Eliot Spitzer resigned in March 2008 after just over a year in office for spending thousands of dollars on high-end escorts, leading to the discovery of a prostitution ring.
Spitzer’s Lt. Gov. David Paterson succeeded him, but left office when the term expired in 2010 after allegations he was involved in witness tampering and lied about receiving free New York Yankees tickets to the World Series. Cuomo has served as governor since.
State Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy agreed.
“New Yorkers can breathe a collective sigh of relief that Andrew Cuomo will no longer be able to wield the immense power of the governor’s office to commit his corruption and abuse, but make no mistake, this resignation is simply an attempt to avoid real accountability for his numerous crimes,” Langworthy said. “Thousands of lives have been destroyed by Andrew Cuomo and the legislature must continue to move forward with impeachment to ensure he can never run for office again.
State officials from all parties expressed a desire to move forward working with Lt. Gov. Hochul in a bipartisan manner.
“Although my colleagues and I have been calling for Gov. Cuomo to resign, today is a sad day for the state of New York,” said Assemblymember Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh. “I am glad that the governor made the decision to step down so that we can continue to govern and not be distracted by the accusations against him. Now we can move on as a state and I have confidence that Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be able to lead us through this transition.”
Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said with Cuomo’s imminent resignation, the state can move forward to more important business for New Yorkers.
“The governor’s decision to step aside does not forgive his many transgressions nor absolve him from responsibility, but, it enables the state of New York to move on,” said Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury. “... “The governor could only drag New York State down. Perhaps today our state motto Excelsior, meaning ever upward, has a renewed meaning. We need to recover from the social and economic impact of COVID. Managing his own problems meant ‘our’ problems would be an afterthought. Cuomo should be held accountable to the fullest extent possible, but our state can finally move forward.”