When there was talk of running for president in 2018, Andrew Cuomo insisted that there was only one reason he was leaving office early. And it wasn’t the White House. “The only caveat,” he said, “is if God hits me to death.”
Another possibility will materialize this week when the Democrat resigns from grace, his allies are gone, and his legacy is tainted with allegations of sexual harassment. This end was not brought about by lightning from heaven, but by 11 women who told the investigators their stories.
For those who have seen Cuomo’s daily COVID-19 briefings and seen a beacon of strength and competence, Cuomo’s farewell to the governor’s mansion may be a stunning turnaround. For New Yorkers, and especially those who have clashed with Cuomo, it’s a story about how his urge to dominate him made him the master of New York politics and brought about his downfall.
“My natural instinct is to be aggressive, and that’s not always good for me,” Cuomo recently confirmed in a recent paper detailing his response to the pandemic. “I am a controlling personality. … But you show me a person who does not control, and I show you a person who is probably not very successful. “
But if equating control with success led to Cuomo’s accomplishments, it also led to his downfall. Many of Cuomo’s accusers told investigators that the governor used his power and threats of retaliation to harass them, believing they would never report him.
“The Andrew Cuomo, whom I have known since 1995, was always about power and control,” said Karen Hinton, a former Cuomo assistant when he was Secretary of the House under President Bill Clinton. “His bullying, flirting, sexual undertones have mostly to do with controlling the person. He thought he would get away with it because of that power and control. “
Hinton is not among the eleven women who are the focus of the attorney general’s report, but she said Cuomo once gave her an uncomfortable hug in a hotel room that was “too long, too tight, too intimate.”
The investigation, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and led by two outside lawyers, corroborated allegations that Cuomo had 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 has apologized for some of his actions, saying others have been misunderstood. He said some of the allegations were “unfair and untrue” and politically driven. After initial reluctance to resign, he announced his resignation this week. He is supported by Lt. Gov. Will replace Kathy Hochul, who will become the first female governor of New York.
But not before a final emergency to challenge Cuomo in his final days. The arrival of Tropical Storm Henri on Sunday put Cuomo back in the familiar role of responding to a natural disaster. Whether it’s Superstorm Sandy, winter storms in Buffalo or just a typical snowstorm in the state, Cuomo, the executive, always seemed to be the most committed in times of natural disasters and sometimes even responded personally to drivers stranded in snowstorms (always on film, of course held). .
Andrew, the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. As a young man, he was his father’s advisor and campaign manager before joining Clinton’s cabinet. He returned to New York in 2002 for a failed governor bid and won the office of Attorney General four years later. In 2010 he ran again for governor and won.
Almost immediately he began to shape the state. He angered progressives by doing business with Republicans. He announced major economic development programs aimed at turning the hinterland economy inside out. He brought in votes for gay marriage, gun control and tax caps.
Had he won a fourth term in 2022, he would have exceeded his father’s three terms.
Although he excels in Albany backroom culture, Cuomo never seemed so comfortable with the personal side of politics. He’s not a baby kisser, but a political operator who knows how the sausage is made and seems to enjoy the work.
Cuomo also appeared to enjoy belittling opponents and critics, be they reporters or political rivals. He mocked a GOP opponent for short, dismissed the 2018 Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon as a “Prosecco-drinking” actress and regularly demonized his former friend who became an arch enemy, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Cuomo declined to speak to The Associated Press about a spokesman who also refused to speak on his behalf. Cuomo’s remaining loyalists have instead used social media to defend his achievements as governor, a list that includes the exact sexual harassment laws he is accused of violating.
It’s not the only contradiction in his long career.
He built more new bridges, train stations, and airport facilities than any governor in decades, but cut funding for local governments struggling to pay for aging sewers and roads.
He bragged about investing in new businesses and western New York, but many programs did little but government-funded commercials featuring Cuomo. Two of Cuomo’s closest advisers have been sentenced to prison terms for corruption related to economic development spending. The investigation 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 – despite accusations that his government was covering up deaths in nursing homes after forcing them to take in COVID patients.
“The country was intrigued by Governor Cuomo’s outspoken talk about 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. “That is emblematic of his style: the performance looks great, but when you go into detail there are big holes and very little substance.”
State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, said it was too early to review Cuomo’s performance as governor as a criminal investigation into the harassment allegations and questions about his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic is ongoing.
Legislators will know more once Cuomo leaves office and will be able to judge whether his government has overdone some of its accomplishments.
“His legacy will also be based on what we learn,” said Krueger.
Cuomo has not said where he will live after vacating the governor’s villa in Albany. The Westchester County house he once shared with ex-partner Sandra Lee was sold. Lee, the cookbook writer and television chef, has since moved to California despite recently being spotted in Europe with a new friend.
His next professional steps are also unclear. With a law degree and years of experience mediating business, Cuomo could work as a lawyer or a real estate development manager.
Could he try a comeback? His campaign fund remains filled with $ 18 million. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner and former Governor Eliot Spitzer, both of whom resigned amid sex scandals, tried to run for office in New York City. Both lost.
According to Doug Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College, the public may be even less forgiving in today’s #MeToo climate.
“It will overshadow the thinking of most voters,” said Muzzio. “He has a lot of successes. He was a builder. When he was elected, the state was in a budget gap of $ 10 billion. And he solved it without raising taxes. But will anyone remember it? “