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.