Cuomo Struggles to Hang On to Power as N.Y. Awaits Next Move
(Bloomberg) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo dug in at the Executive Mansion in Albany on Wednesday, avoiding the public eye as one of his few remaining allies joined the chorus of Democrats calling for his resignation over sexual-harassment violations.
State Democratic Party chairman Jay S. Jacobs, who had stood by Cuomo throughout the months-long scandal, said he advised Cuomo to step down and he refused. In a telephone interview on Wednesday night, Jacobs said he expected the embattled governor to hold a press conference “in the next day or so to lay out his views on these allegations.”
“I suggested this is the right time to resign because I didn’t see anything getting better,” Jacobs said. “I said to him, ‘The toothpaste is out of the tube,’ meaning the political support has left and I don’t see him getting it back.”
The three-term governor, who won an Emmy for his garrulous daily news conferences during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, became even more politically isolated after Tuesday’s release of a report outlining 11 cases of harassment toward women who worked with him.
While Cuomo denied the allegations, claiming he had done nothing wrong and vowing to be vindicated in any civil lawsuit, the speaker of the Assembly has said the Democratic majority believes he is unfit for office. Several state senators who would decide his fate in an impeachment trial have called on him to resign.
Democratic state Senator Todd Kaminsky, a former prosecutor, said he doesn’t think the Assembly needs to conduct more investigations before beginning the impeachment process, which would lead to Cuomo’s temporary removal from office while a trial takes place in the Senate.
“I do not think they need to see anything more,” he said on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power With David Westin.” “I think the report from the attorney general’s plenty.”
A Marist poll of 542 registered voters in the state conducted Tuesday night showed a total of 63% saying he should resign and 59% wanting the legislature to impeach him if he doesn’t. Only 12% of registered voters said he deserves to be re-elected, down from 36% in February. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.
Cuomo’s troubles were no longer just political, as prosecutors in Albany, Manhattan and Westchester County indicated they may pursue criminal charges. State Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday that her investigation found he had violated state and federal laws against sexual harassment and a toxic work environment.
On Wednesday, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance requested evidence from James’s office on any misconduct that happened in his jurisdiction. Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah and Albany County District Attorney David Soares had already confirmed their own investigations.
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The governor also lost support among some of his most powerful union allies, including the New York State United Teachers, representing more than 600,000 members statewide, and District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, New York City’s largest public workers organization with 175,000 current and retired members.
“He is no longer fit to serve,” said Henry Garrido, executive director of the AFSCME council. “The Governor must resign. If he does not, the Assembly must begin the process to impeach.”
Other unions that have called for the governor’s removal include the Hotel Trades Council, and a unit of the Service Employees International Union that represents 175,000 building, school and food-service workers on the East Coast. Kyle Bragg, president of the unit called 32BJ, said, “We will support the state legislature’s actions to bring accountability to the office with all deliberate speed.”
In New York City, local and state officials gathered outside Cuomo’s Manhattan offices. A group of housing advocates, along with the officials, crowded the sidewalk outside the building near Grand Central Terminal, chanting slogans demanding he quit his post.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a nonvoting member of the City Council, said the attorney general’s report was only the latest blow to a governor who should have resigned months ago.
“People wanted to see a process, but people used that as an excuse not to stand up to someone in power,” Williams said. “My hope is that now people have the courage and the ability to get him out of there.”
In addition to calling for Cuomo’s removal, the advocates were also seeking an extension to the state eviction moratorium and the proper administration of the state’s rent relief program, which they say the governor has hamstrung.
State Senator Julia Salazar, whose district includes parts of Northern Brooklyn, said she would much prefer to work with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and added that the state legislature is on its way to impeaching the governor.
“I really respect the Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. I think that she’s demonstrated that she’s highly competent,” Salazar said. “She would be much better equipped to oversee the administration of the rent-relief program, the excluded workers fund and, frankly, just the overall functioning of the state.”
The governor’s office made no new public statements on the report Wednesday, but it did issue a press release outlining a new public outreach campaign on the federal child tax credit. It didn’t mention Cuomo making public appearances as part of the campaign.
Jacobs, the party chairman, said at stake are elections for Congress, the state senate, “and local races that count,” including mayor of New York City. Jacobs made no mention in the telephone interview of the 2022 governor’s race. Before the scandal unfolded, Cuomo had said he planned to run for a fourth term.
Jacobs said Cuomo did not seem angry when he spoke to him on Wednesday and informed him he would be issuing a statement about their conversation. Jacobs declined to disclose what Cuomo said to him.
“I did not detect anger,” Jacobs said. “I voiced my friendship. I think he was disappointed.”
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