In 2018, when it came to his running for president, Andrew Cuomo insisted there was only one reason he would step down sooner. And it wasn’t the White House. “The only caveat,” he said, “is if God strikes me to death.”
Another possibility will come true this week, when the Democrat resigns in disgrace, his allies gone, his legacy marred by allegations of sexual harassment. This ending was not caused by love at first sight, but by 11 women who told their stories to investigators.
For those who have watched Cuomo’s daily COVID-19 briefings and seen a beacon of strength and skill, Cuomo’s departure from the Governor’s Mansion may seem like an astonishing reversal. For New Yorkers, and especially those who clashed with Cuomo, it’s a story of how his drive to dominate made him the master of New York politics and brought on his downfall.
“My natural instinct is to be aggressive, and that doesn’t always serve me well,” Cuomo acknowledged in a recent brief detailing his response to the pandemic. “I am a controlling personality. … But you show me a person who is not in control, and I’m going to show you a person who is probably not very successful.
But while equating control with success led to Cuomo’s accomplishments, it also precipitated his downfall. Many of Cuomo’s accusers told investigators the governor used his power and the threat of retaliation to harass them, believing they would never report him.
“The Andrew Cuomo I’ve known since 1995 has always been about power and control,” said Karen Hinton, a former Cuomo aide when he was Housing Secretary under President Bill Clinton. “His bullying, his flirtation, his sexual connotations are a lot about controlling the person. He thought he would get away with this power and control.
Hinton is not among the 11 women at the center of the attorney general’s report, but she said Cuomo once gave her an uncomfortable hug in a hotel room “too long, too narrow, too intimate.”
The investigation overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James and led by two outside attorneys corroborated accusations that Cuomo inappropriately touched women, commented on their appearance, or made suggestive comments about their sex lives. Most of the women worked in the state government.
Cuomo apologized for some of his actions and said others were misunderstood. He said some of the accusations were “unfair and false” and politically motivated. After initially hesitating to step down, he announced he would step down this week. He will be replaced by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is expected to become New York’s first female governor.
But not before one last emergency to challenge Cuomo in his dying days. The arrival of Tropical Storm Henry on Sunday put Cuomo back into the familiar role of responding to a natural disaster. Whether it was Super Storm Sandy, winter storms in Buffalo, or just a typical upstate snowstorm, Cuomo, the executive, always seemed to be the most engaged in natural disasters. , sometimes even responding personally to motorists stranded in snowstorms (still filmed, of course).
Son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, Andrew seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. As a young man, he was his father’s assistant and campaign manager before joining Clinton’s cabinet. He returned to New York City for a failed gubernatorial bid in 2002, then won the attorney general’s office four years later. In 2010, he ran for governor again and won.
Almost immediately he began to leave his mark on the state. He angered progressives by making deals with Republicans. He announced major economic development programs designed to turn around the economy in the upstate. He gathered votes for same-sex marriage, gun control and tax caps.
If he had won a fourth term in 2022, he would have surpassed his father’s three terms.
Although he is good at Albany’s behind-the-scenes negotiation culture, Cuomo has never seemed so comfortable with the personal side of politics. He’s not a baby kisser, but rather a political operator who knows how the sausage is made and seems to enjoy the job.
Cuomo also seemed to be delighted with the decrease in opponents and critics, whether they were reporters or political rivals. He mocked a GOP opponent as being short, dismissed 2018 Democratic Primary challenger Cynthia Nixon as a “sipping prosecco” actress, and regularly tormented his former friend turned nemesis, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Cuomo declined to comment on the Associated Press through a spokesperson, who also declined to comment on his behalf. Instead, Cuomo’s remaining loyalists have taken to social media to defend his accomplishments as governor, a list that includes the sexual harassment laws he is accused of violating.
This is not the only contradiction in his long career.
He built more new bridges, stations and airport facilities than any governor in decades, but he cut funding to local governments struggling to pay for aging sewers and roads.
It bragged about investments in new businesses and in western New York City, but many programs generated few other state-funded ads featuring Cuomo. Two of Cuomo’s closest advisers have been sentenced to prison terms for corruption over economic development spending. Investigations into Cuomo’s role ended without charge.
He won an Emmy for his daily COVID briefings and was so proud of the state’s response that he wrote a book – even though his administration has been accused of covering up deaths in nursing homes after having them forced to accept COVID patients.
“The country was mesmerized by Governor Cuomo’s outspoken speech on the pandemic, but he didn’t even follow the experts,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, a good government group that has long clashed with Cuomo. “It’s emblematic of his style: the performance is superb, but when you go into the details, there are big holes and very little substance.”
State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, said it was too early to examine Cuomo’s performance as governor, given that there are criminal investigations into the harassment allegations and questions about his management of nursing homes during the pandemic.
Lawmakers will know more once Cuomo leaves office, and they can assess whether his administration has overstated any of his accomplishments.
“His legacy will also be based on what we learn,” Krueger said.
Cuomo has not said where he will live after leaving the governor’s mansion in Albany. The Westchester County house he once shared with his ex-partner Sandra Lee has been sold. Lee, cookbook author and television chef, has since moved to California, although she was recently spotted in Europe with a new boyfriend.
His next professional steps are also unclear. With a law degree and extensive experience in brokerage transactions, Cuomo could work as a lawyer or real estate development manager.
Could he attempt a comeback? His campaign coffers remain empty, with $ 18 million. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who both resigned amid sex scandals, have tried to run for office in New York City. Both lost.
In today’s post #MeToo climate, the public is perhaps even less forgiving, according to Doug Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College.
“It will eclipse most thinking voters,” Muzio said. “He has a lot of accomplishments. He was a master builder. When elected, the state was in a $ 10 billion budget hole. And he solved it without raising taxes. But will anyone remember it?