Governor Andrew Cuomo
Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers remarks at the start of the Little Neck Douglaston Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 26, 2014. Credit: Diana Robinson

Reluc­tant­ly acknowl­edg­ing that his posi­tion has become com­plete­ly unten­able, Andrew Cuo­mo resigned today as New York’s top elect­ed leader, about one year and a half pri­or to the end of his third term, fol­low­ing the release of a blis­ter­ing report that con­clud­ed that Cuo­mo had sex­u­al­ly harassed near­ly a dozen women and ille­gal­ly retal­i­at­ed against at least one who com­plained pub­licly about it.

“Giv­en the cir­cum­stances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let gov­ern­ment get back to gov­ern­ing,” Cuo­mo said in a livestreamed mes­sage from his office that many found dif­fi­cult to watch. “And there­fore, that’s what I’ll do.”

Cuo­mo had been asked to do just that months and weeks ago, but he refused, not want­i­ng to relin­quish his pow­er. He recon­sid­ered only after his clos­est advis­ers and friends told him blunt­ly that he would be impeached if he did not resign. (In New York, an impeached gov­er­nor los­es their pow­er as of when arti­cles of impeach­ment are approved, unlike at the fed­er­al level.)

New York’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion, leg­isla­tive lead­er­ship, and key allies had all pushed Cuo­mo to step down after the release of the New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s report into his con­duct, with many who had said they were reserv­ing judg­ment declar­ing that the time had come for Cuo­mo to go. But Cuo­mo respond­ed instead with defi­ance, prompt­ing the State Assem­bly to begin work on impeach­ment pro­ceed­ings. The Assem­bly could still press on with those pro­ceed­ings, result­ing in Cuo­mo being barred from ever hold­ing office again.

Cuo­mo will be suc­ceed­ed by Kathy Hochul, the cur­rent Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor, who for­mer­ly rep­re­sent­ed a por­tion of the state in Congress.

Hochul will be the first woman to lead the State of New York since its inception.

While Hochul and Cuo­mo are not par­tic­u­lar­ly close, she has been a sup­port­ive and loy­al sur­ro­gate for the gov­er­nor since join­ing the tick­et back in 2014.

“I agree with Gov­er­nor Cuo­mo’s deci­sion to step down,” Hochul said in a brief state­ment. “It is the right thing to do and in the best inter­est of New York­ers. 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.”

Hochul will soon have to decide if she wants to be a can­di­date for gov­er­nor in next year’s midterms. New York elects its chief exec­u­tive in between pres­i­den­tial cycles, and Cuo­mo had been gear­ing up to seek a fourth term before final­ly being enveloped by scan­dal. Hochul is cur­rent­ly not well known to many vot­ers, but as the incum­bent gov­er­nor, she will have much greater name famil­iar­i­ty by the time New York holds its 2022 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry for governor.

Cuo­mo’s res­ig­na­tion will be effec­tive in two weeks, mean­ing that Hochul will take over just before the month of Sep­tem­ber begins.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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