The Cuomo Conundrum

Signs calling for Cuomo to resign.
Photo by Dean Moses

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’s not going anywhere. His Democratic colleagues in state government are increasingly telling him it’s time to go.

Cuomo has firmly announced Sunday at a press conference that he would not do so until the Attorney General, Letitia James, had conducted a thorough investigation into the sex harassment allegations against him. To resign, he said, would be “anti-democratic.”

Cuomo critics were quick to point out that the governor wasn’t willing to wait on a full investigation when sex abuse allegations rose against former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In May 2018, Cuomo was quick to call for Schneiderman to step down — and the attorney general did.

It is true that Cuomo was enormously successful in controlling the COVID outbreak in NYC, far exceeding the federal government’s skeletal assistance and advice. Clearly, if the allegations are true, Cuomo should face criminal charges. But as we wait for the Attorney General and her staff to conduct the investigation we must “learn a lesson,” to borrow the Governor’s coinage.

The governor’s excuses of being just a playful yet misunderstood guy who just isn’t very good at reading the room are not good enough. How can we expect anyone — states, politicians, citizens — to take our governor seriously, regardless of the outcome of the investigation?

And as we said last week, this is not the time to have a scandal-ridden governor distracting from the major work head of New York in rebounding from COVID-19.

The Empire State’s getting big help from the American Rescue Plan, which passed the split Senate and is expected to pass the House this week. Funding is half the battle, however; New York needs capable leaders and good government to help rebuild a post-pandemic New York.

A budget’s due in less than four weeks. Even with the promise of new federal help, the state has major decisions to tackle when it comes to how it plans to spend its resources this coming year.

As we rebound from COVID-19, as more vaccines get in arms, the state still needs a stable leader guiding us out of the pandemic and safely returning us to a more normal way of life.

But the shadow looms: political and even pandemic success is insignificant if your state leader is proved to be a sexual predator.

Cuomo claimed Sunday that he will not be distracted by the sexual harassment allegations and continue to focus on controlling COVID in NYC. But that’s just not possible — not after Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins called for Cuomo to step down Sunday.

If Cuomo’s biggest supporters in the state legislature say it’s over, then it’s over for Cuomo.