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Andrew Cuomo Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Claims; Kathy Hochul to Become Acting Governor

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Ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Credit: Gov. Cuomo's Office

Cuomo Resigns Amid Harassment Claims and Pressure to Step Down

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, 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. His resignation will be effective in 14 days.

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. 

In a statement, she said she was ready to step in to the role.

"I agree with Governor Cuomo's decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers," Hochul said. "As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor."

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 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. 

Another, an unnamed State Trooper from his personal detail, said Cuomo asked to kiss her more than once, ran his finger down her back in an elevator, and touched her stomach once when he passed by her.

Several articles have also been published 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.

After calling for his resignation last week, Biden said Tuesday that he respected Cuomo's decision to step down.

"I respect the governor’s decision and I respect the decision he made,""I think he should resign," Biden said, later saying he didn't think it would affect the national party.

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 in March.

After Cuomo's resignation Tuesday, Schumer said in a statement that it was the right thing for the governor to do.

"There is no place for sexual harassment, and today’s announcement by Governor Cuomo to resign was the right decision for the good of the people of New York," Schumer said. "I have full confidence that Lt Governor Hochul will establish a professional and capable administration."

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 had 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. In a statement Tuesday, Heastie said he looked forward to working with Hochul but did not indicate what would happen with the impeachment probe.

That’s on top of a third investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes, where nearly 14,000 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.