The top Democrats in the New York legislature called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign on Sunday after two more former aides accused him of improper behavior and as members of his administration stand accused of altering data to downplay the true toll of the coronavirus pandemic.
In separate statements Sunday, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) said they had seen enough.
“Every day there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government. We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the Covid-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project,” Stewart-Cousins said. “New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Gov. Cuomo must resign.”
“We have many challenges to address, and I think it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York,” Heastie said in his own statement.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D), the deputy majority leader, said on Twitter that he agreed with Stewart-Cousins that Cuomo should resign.
Thank you @AndreaSCousins. You continue to inspire.
I stand with you in calling for Governor Cuomo to resign so we can move our state forward. https://t.co/TkooMeaFlY
— Sen. Mike Gianaris (@SenGianaris) March 7, 2021
Stewart-Cousins, Heastie and Gianaris are the most prominent New York Democrats to call on Cuomo to quit after a month of mounting scandal but far from the first. Stewart-Cousins had said as recently as Friday that Cuomo’s career was in jeopardy if another woman joined the three who had already accused him of sexual harassment.
On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported that a former aide said Cuomo had asked if she had a boyfriend, touched her lower back and kissed her hand as she rose from a desk during the two years she worked for him from 2013 to 2015. The Washington Post reported a former press aide said Cuomo had embraced her after a work event in 2000, when Cuomo ran the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Briefing reporters on the state of New York’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo insisted he would not quit.
“I was elected by the people of the state. I wasn’t elected by politicians. I’m not going to resign because of allegations. The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually anti-democratic and we’ve always done the exact opposite. You know the system is based on due process and the credibility of the allegation,” Cuomo said. “This is not about me and accusations about me. The attorney general can handle that. This is about doing the people’s business, and this next six months I believe will determine the future trajectory for New York state.”
But in interviews over the last week with more than a dozen legislators, even those who did not think Cuomo should resign said the allegations were standing in the way of legislative business at a crucial moment for the state as budget negotiations loom.
“These scandals have caused a delay in our regular process. It is a distraction,” said Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D). “We have a budget that needs to pass because the state is in trouble.”
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D), the majority leader, told The Hill in an interview Friday that the scandals had weakened Cuomo’s political position ahead of budget negotiations. Asked if she thought the legislature now had the upper hand, Peoples-Stokes said, “We do, and we should use it.”
Peoples-Stokes has not called on Cuomo to resign, though she said he should if an investigation overseen by Attorney General Letitia James (D) finds the allegations of improper behavior have merit.
Cuomo had been in mounting trouble with legislative Democrats even before the allegations of harassment and improper behavior. Last month, a senior Cuomo adviser acknowledged to the legislature that the administration had been covering up data about the number of nursing home residents who had died of the coronavirus for fear of inviting an investigation from the federal Department of Justice as Cuomo battled then-President Donald Trump.
Via The Hill