Andrew Cuomo Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Claims; Kathy Hochul To Become Acting Governor
Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned from office on Tuesday amid allegations that he sexually harassed and verbally abused members of his staff, and after pressure from several high-ranking state and federal officials for him to step down.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will now take Cuomo’s place in 14 days, becoming the first woman in state history to serve as governor.
"I think that given the circumstances the best way I can help now is if I step side and let government get back to government," Cuomo said.
Hochul, a native of Buffalo, was first elected as lieutenant governor in 2014, joining Cuomo’s ticket. The pair were reelected in 2018, though Hochul faced a tough primary challenge at the time.
Hochul has yet to comment on Cuomo’s resignation, but will immediately assume the governorship, per the state constitution.
Cuomo's resignation wasn't a surprise. He's faced pressure in recent days to step down after a bombshell report from the Attorney General's Office found claims of sexual harassment against the him to be credible.
Those claims were brought by several women, some of which have alleged that he inappropriately touched them. One of the accusers reportedly said Cuomo reached up her blouse while they were alone.
Cuomo has denied inappropriately touching anyone while in office, and said the sexual relationships he’s had in his life have been consensual.
"I've not had a sexual relationship that was inappropriate, period,” Cuomo told reporters in early March. "As I have said before, and I firmly believe, and my administration has always represented, women have a right to come forward and be heard, and I encourage that fully, but I also want to be clear: there is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged.”
Cuomo’s first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, accused him of trying to forcibly kiss her while the two were alone, and making inappropriate remarks to her.
His second accuser, Charlotte Bennett, has said Cuomo asked her about intimate deals of her sex life, including if she would have sex with an older man.
Others echoed that behavior in the attorney general's report, with one of his accusers claiming that Cuomo held her in an uncomfortable embrace while they were alone in a hotel room together two decades ago.
Several articles have also since March about the reportedly toxic workplace Cuomo and his top aides have created in the administration, including an implication that women dress a certain way, and verbal abuse toward junior staffers.
As more women came out with claims against Cuomo, more Democrats had called for his resignation, or for state lawmakers to move forward with impeachment in the Assembly.
President Joe Biden, after the report came out, publicly called on Cuomo to resign.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both from New York, had become the highest-ranking federal officials from New York to call for Cuomo’s resignation. Every member of Congress from New York has done the same.
And Democrats in the state Legislature had also called for Cuomo to step down, or be impeached.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester, called for his resignation in March, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, has said the Assembly has unanimously agreed that Cuomo shouldn't remain in office.
"It is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office.," Heastie said after the attorney general's report was released.
Heastie, in March, charged the Assembly Judiciary Committee to conduct a full investigation into Cuomo to determine if they could move forward with impeachment.
It’s unclear if that investigation will continue, given that Cuomo has now left office.
That’s on top of a third investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes, where more than 13,000 people have died from COVID-19. Federal prosecutors are handling that investigation.
Cuomo is now the second incumbent Democrat in the last two decades to resign from office amid a scandal over his behavior with women.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer had also stepped down amid a prostitution scandal, allowing Gov. David Paterson to serve out the rest of his term. Cuomo was elected to replace Paterson, who decided not to run.
Democrats will now spend the next few months coalescing around a new candidate for governor next year. Hochul hasn’t said whether she’d run for the top job, but there certainly isn’t a shortage of elected officials who’ve expressed interest.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wouldn’t rule out a run for governor, and some have speculated the New York Attorney General Letitia James may be interested in the job. Neither have said outright that they would run.
Republicans are hoping to take the top spot in next year’s elections, and have already named their presumptive nominee: Rep. Lee Zeldin.