The Andrew Cuomo investigation took another turn on August 3rd, with specific allegations of sexual harassment leveled against the incumbent New York governor.
New York’s attorney general, Letitia James – herself a possible Democratic candidate in 2022 – furnished a detailed independent report to the State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee regarding the governor. The full text of the report is available through the NYS Attorney General website. It is not light poolside reading.
Running 168 pages in length, it is alleged that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed a total of 11 women during his three terms in office. Many of these alleged incidents took place over the past few years.
These allegations are of a disturbing nature, and for his part, Cuomo has denied them all. As of August 3, he has also refused to resign his office. What will happen if he stays?
Andrew Cuomo Investigation: Immediate Political Difficulties
Governor Cuomo is under pressure from numerous officials, including many within his own party, to resign. Among the names calling for Cuomo to step down are President Joe Biden, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York’s junior senator Kirsten Gillibrand, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and US House Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also reiterated his call for Cuomo to resign; the two can scarcely hide their distaste for one another.
There is also a non-zero chance that Cuomo will face impeachment by the State Legislature. Democrats hold two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, but with the volume of Democrats opposing Cuomo, party affiliation may not make a difference. In the end, this avenue is up to Carl Heastie, the State Assembly’s speaker. Heastie holds a power position, and whether or not Cuomo faces impeachment will be up to him. The speaker backing such a move would create a massive, unavoidable difficulty for the governor.
Andrew Cuomo Investigation: Electoral Difficulties
New York’s governor is coming towards the end of his third term. His father, the late Mario Cuomo, was also a three-term governor until he lost to George Pataki in 1994. While there may be no Pataki-like moderate Republican waiting in the wings in New York, the pressure Cuomo faces would be from within his own party.
Democrats were already maneuvering to take Cuomo on as word of the investigation spread, or at the very least prepare for an open gubernatorial seat. Now, with the report being made public and passed on to the State Assembly for action, expect the chorus of Democrats considering a run to grow in the coming months.
If Cuomo is not impeached or pushed into resignation, he will have a choice as to whether or not he will seek a fourth term in 2022. Indications were that he intended to run again. Should he navigate through the rest of 2021 and make it to a 2022 campaign, it is a near certainty that he will face a primary.
Those with reported potential interest in seeking the governorship are Bill de Blasio, Letitia James, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been mentioned. Nobody but Cuomo has thrown their hat into the ring on the Democratic side – yet. It is, however, unthinkable that Democrats would rally behind Cuomo as their 2022 nominee given how many heavy hitters have called for his ouster.
What’s Next for Cuomo?
The governor has now been put squarely in the sights of the State Legislature to take action against him. Democrats in Albany are at a crossroads as far as what to do with him; decisions must be made soon. As long as Cuomo continues to vehemently deny the allegations and dodge voluntary removal, involuntary removal via impeachment grows as a possibility.
Even if he should avoid that threat, he would have to fight for his job in 2022, assuming he runs again. A blue state’s blue state, Democrats in New York have quite a deep bench and many potential options to slide into the governor’s chair. Cuomo is expendable inasmuch as he is now a political liability to the party. Ultimately, the odds of him being sworn in again as governor in 2023 are very remote.