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Cuomo Wages a Lonely Last Fight for Power as Allies Say Resignation Appears Inevitable

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Josefa Velasquez, THE CITY

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A day after a bombshell report found that the governor sexually harassed at least 11 women, more backers of the once-mighty governor peeled away. Even longtime supporters urged him to step down with all-but certain impeachment looming.

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers his state budget in Albany, Jan. 19, 2021. | Mike Groll/Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is an island. 

Bunkered at the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, he made no comments or public appearances Wednesday as he shed support from some of his most ardent allies following a bombshell report released by Attorney General Letitia James that found he sexually harassed at least 11 women. 

But it’s no longer a matter of if he will resign, but when, several political observers who have known Cuomo for years told THE CITY on the condition of anonymity. 

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden called on the governor to quit. The latest major public blow came Wednesday from Jay Jacobs, head of the state Democratic Party, who had fiercely defended Cuomo when allegations of sexual harassment against the three-term governor surfaced in late February. 

In a statement, Jacobs urged Cuomo to step down, saying that the governor has “lost his ability to govern, both practically and morally.”

“The party and this state will not be well served by a long, protracted removal process designed only to delay what is now, clearly, inevitable,” said Jacobs, whose organization is closely aligned with Cuomo.

The Democratic-dominated Assembly, which has the power to kick off impeachment proceedings, has requested all of the materials collected by the attorney general’s investigators. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) promised to “move expeditiously” to remove the governor, though the process could take weeks to unfold

But many in Cuomo’s orbit doubt that he will make it to impeachment, anticipating that he will tender his resignation instead of facing a humiliating process in which some of his most vocal foes in the state Senate will act as jury. He stands to go down in history as the second governor to ever be impeached in New York, and the first in a century. 

In Denial in Albany

Cuomo, say people who have been in touch with him and his inner circle, has largely been in a state of denial since independent investigators hired by James’ office to investigate sexual harassment claims unveiled the 168-page report Tuesday, which found that the governor violated state and federal law. 

Jacobs told Spectrum News that he had spent the last day urging Cuomo to resign but wasn’t “making headway.” 

In a pre-taped rebuke to the findings Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo reiterated that he has “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” while showing a montage of him hugging and kissing people — actions he said were “meant to convey warmth.” 

But his coterie of senior aides and allies see the writing on the wall — there is no way for Cuomo, a once brilliant political tactician, to survive this, sources said, even as the governor is trying to buy himself more time as the Assembly begins to move on impeachment proceedings. 

Jacobs wasn’t the only major figure calling for Cuomo to step down on Wednesday. 

By late afternoon, another close ally, Hazel Dukes of the NAACP who often refers to Cuomo as her son, added her voice to demands for his resignation. “We have to move on with the business of the state, and if you can’t govern, yes, that would be in the best interest for himself and the state,” she told NY1.

That followed a Marist Poll showing 59% of New Yorkers —  including 52% of registered Democrats — want the 63-year-old governor to resign. 

The poll, conducted Tuesday following release of the attorney general’s report, found that 48% of Democratic voters support impeaching the governor if he doesn’t resign. 

Wednesday marked a watershed moment for Cuomo as major labor unions announced that he should resign or face impeachment. 

Henry Garrido, the head of the city’s largest municipal union, District Council 37, said the union could not “turn a blind eye to the harassment perpetuated by Governor Cuomo. It is evident that he is no longer fit to serve.” 

His sentiments were echoed by the state’s AFL-CIO, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store workers union, which lauded Cuomo for securing a $15 minimum wage in 2016. 

“The RWDSU fights daily to uphold our values of dignity and respect in the workplace for our members. We cannot accept anything less from our leaders. Whether Gov. Cuomo believes he acted maliciously or not, we cannot look the other way; nor should he. Gov. Cuomo needs to recognize the harm he has caused the women who have bravely come forward,” the union said in a statement. 

“While we acknowledge the good things he has achieved. Now is the time for Gov. Cuomo to resign.” 

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Hochul attend a screening in 2015 at Lincoln Center of the “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary highlighting sexual violence at colleges and universities.

Jacobs had his own bittersweet parting words for his longtime close ally: 

“Our state and its citizens are better off having had Andrew Cuomo as our governor. It is my hope that the legacy of the progressive change he brought to our people and the renewal of infrastructure he brought to our state will outshine the darkness of this sorry episode,” Jacobs added. 

If Cuomo resigns or somehow lasts until all-but inevitable impeachment, he’d be replaced by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who called for his resignation Tuesday. 

The governor could also face criminal investigations based on allegations of unwanted touching in James reports. So, far district attorneys in four counties have asked James’ offices for investigatory materials.

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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