Image Credit: Diana Robinson
Amidst a year of scandal, Andrew Cuomo has finally succumbed to intense pressure and ended his ten year grip on power in New York. The embattled Governor, facing sexual harassment allegations from eleven women, resigned on 24 August, allowing Democrats across the nation to breathe a sigh of relief.
A week after the bombshell report from New York Attorney General Letitia James, Cuomo made the tough decision to resign, paving the way for Kathy Hochul to become the first female Governor of New York. Hochul has been an advocate for both sexual assault and domestic abuse victims, partly due to her own family’s experience with domestic abuse. Furthermore, she helped to spearhead Cuomo’s Enough is Enough sexual violence law and campaign, speaking to students across the state of New York about sexual violence and the help this legislation gives to victims.
With a strong background in fighting for women’s rights and advocating on behalf of sexual assault and domestic violence victims, Hochul has the necessary credentials to begin repairing the office of the Governor. Both moving the state forward and leaving scandal in the past. Whilst there is much to celebrate for Hochul and her historic rise to the most powerful position in New York state politics, there is no doubt that the long and turbulent tenure of Andrew Cuomo has left a stain on the office of the Governor.
The allegations of sexual harassment against Andrew Cuomo have paralysed his office and thus the only viable solution for him was to step down. However, in a lengthy resignation speech, Cuomo made sure to point out what he deems as ‘serious flaws’ within the investigative report and put the allegations down to political maneuvering. With a gubernatorial election coming up next year, it was no surprise that Cuomo took aim at those who have stopped what would have been his third re-election campaign in its tracks.
The report itself, despite the attempts by Cuomo to discredit it, provides for interesting and disturbing reading. Eleven women, who have worked both within the executive office as well as ordinary citizens of New York, have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against the disgraced Governor ranging from unseemly comments to allegations of inappropriate touching and kissing. The report claims that the culture of the office enabled Cuomo to continue to sexually harass women for over seven years and that women were silenced in fear that the volatile Governor would lash out and they would potentially lose their jobs if they ever raised their concerns about his behaviour.
However, Cuomo’s testimony and refutation has raised eyebrows at his clear lack of remorse. Whilst he apologised to the victims and thanked them for coming forward, his rebuttal of the explicit and mounting evidence has been seen as worrisome. In his resignation speech, Cuomo both acknowledges his brave victims but also describes their allegations as politically motivated and as falsehoods. Likewise in his testimony he places the blame on his victims and describes his actions as coming from a loving place and once again accuses the allegations of coming from a politically motivated place. It is clear, however, that for the eleven victims of Andrew Cuomo, they have much more than politics on their minds.
Whilst his fall from power was inevitable, Cuomo leaves behind ten years of aggressive and meaningful change in the state of New York, being described as the most proactive Governor for decades. President Biden himself, despite encouraging Cuomo to resign, described the situation as sad due to Cuomo being seen as a terrific Governor, with his popularity peaking during the Covid pandemic. From huge infrastructure projects to radical climate change bills, Cuomo leaves a legacy of prosperity and action. Under his watch New York became the sixth state in the Union, and the largest state at the time to legalise same sex marriage. Further still, Cuomo introduced and signed the SAFE Act into law, which has become the nation’s toughest gun safety law.
It is evident that Cuomo has enacted much consequential legislation in the state of New York and was and will continue to be loved by many. But in light of the allegations, Cuomo has become yet another scandalous Governor that leaves his office in a cloud of shame. In California Governor Newsom faces a recall election in September following outrage over Newsom breaking his own Covid measures. With a weary electorate and fading support for the Democrats on a state level since the departure of President Obama in 2016, the Cuomo scandal will do little to subdue the growing unease amongst Democratic supporters.