NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Bowing to enormous pressure in the face of the sexual harassment scandal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he will resign, effective in two weeks.
Kathy Hochul, currently New York’s lieutenant governor, will step into the most powerful position in the state.
The reaction to Cuomo’s stepping aside came quickly.
“I agree with Gov. Cuomo’s decision to step down. 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 said.
Cuomo, who has served as the state’s leader since 2011, will leave New York in a precarious position as it deals with, among other things, a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“First, I want to commend the brave women who stepped forward and courageously told their stories. There is no place for sexual harassment, and today’s announcement by Gov. Cuomo to resign was the right decision for the good of the people of New York. I have full confidence that Lt. Gov. Hochul will establish a professional and capable administration. I have spoken with Lt. Gov. Hochul and look forward to working together to help the people of New York,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
Congressman Tom Suozzi echoed Schumer’s sentiments, but also expressed gratitude for much of what the Cuomo administration achieved during his nearly three terms in office.
“There is no doubt that Andrew Cuomo has accomplished much for our state, from the property tax cap, to rebuilding our infrastructure, to instituting a $15 minimum wage and battling COVID. It is imperative that our next governor continue the positive achievements of the Cuomo administration and help once again make New York the Empire State,” Suozzi said.
Attorney General Letitia James, whose office released a scathing report on the sexual harassment claims against Cuomo, said, “Today closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it’s an important step towards justice. I thank Gov. Cuomo for his contributions to our state. The ascension of our lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, will help New York enter a new day. We must continue to build on the progress already made and improve the lives of New Yorkers in every corner of the state. I know our state is in good hands with Lt. Gov. Hochul at the helm, and I look forward to continuing to work with her.”
Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “We will continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, rebuild our economy, and face our challenges standing together.”
This was echoed by Westchester state Senator Alessandra Biaggi: “Let this next chapter for New York be one of integrity, optimism, and progress.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has long been at odds with Cuomo over various issues, said, “Make no mistake, this is the result of survivors bravely telling their stories. It was past time for Andrew Cuomo to resign and it’s for the good of all New York.”
Even long-time colleague and confidant Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, one of the last remaining Cuomo supporters, finally had to state the inevitable, saying, “This has been a tragic chapter in our state’s history. Governor Cuomo’s resignation is the right decision. The brave women who stepped forward were heard. Everyone deserves to work in a harassment-free environment. I have spoken with Lt. Gov. Hochul and I look forward to working with her.”
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s no love lost between the governor and Assemblyman Ron Kim, who has been in a bitter battle with Cuomo since last winter over COVID nursing home deaths in the state.
“I didn’t think Andrew Cuomo would resign, and when I pushed back against the governor in February, I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. I didn’t have any expectations, but to be at this point with the 11 brave woman who stepped up, you know, to hold him accountable,” Kim said.
On Tuesday, he acknowledges an important new beginning for the state and people of New York.
“No one is above the law, and we want to make sure that we have executives, mayors and governors and presidents who are listening and doing the people’s work and not fostering a toxic and abusive culture,” Kim said.
Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee in the mayoral election in November, took to Twitter, saying, “This is the right decision and is in the best interest of all New Yorkers. I stand ready to work with incoming Governor @KathyHochul as we guide our City through these challenging times and do the hard work of leading a safe, equitable recovery for NYC.”
This is the right decision and is in the best interest of all New Yorkers.
I stand ready to work with incoming Governor @KathyHochul as we guide our City through these challenging times and do the hard work of leading a safe, equitable recovery for NYC.
— Eric Adams (@ericadamsfornyc) August 10, 2021
As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, Long Island state Sen. Todd Kaminsky admitted he was shocked by the announcement.
“I think right up until the moment he said it, it sounded like he was gonna say it but you didn’t really think he would do it. The governor is a political brawler. We certainly saw the walls closing in. I think he know that voters were no longer giving him the benefit of the doubt,” Kaminsky said.
He is also pragmatic about the quality of leadership the state all need to move forward.
“At the end of the day, New Yorkers want to have two things. They want to have good, competent, strong leadership. They also want people to be ethical and respectful and honest, and we have to be able to have both those things reside in an important person in government,” Kaminsky said.
Meanwhile, Republicans pounced not long after Cuomo made his announcement.
“Today marks one small step toward restoring honor, decency, and accountability to New York State government. I hope today also brings some measure of justice to the brave women who had the courage to come forward against a powerful and vindictive political figure,” Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said in a statement. “Over the past year, Andrew Cuomo’s credibility completely fell apart. Now, following his overdue resignation, it will never be repaired. The Governor’s pervasive harassment and coverups cast a dark cloud over our State Capitol and took us away from the important work facing this state.
“Andrew Cuomo broke the law, lied about it, and shamelessly smeared the women who came forward. His resignation is welcome, but it stops short of the justice his victims and the people of New York deserve. The FBI, the State Attorney General, and other proper authorities must also be allowed to continue their work investigating all of the possible crimes related to our state’s nursing homes crisis and the Governor’s questionable book deal. The Legislature must examine the Cuomo administration’s many failings in public forums as soon as possible so that these abuses of power will never happen under another administration,” Ortt added.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who challenged Cuomo in the 2018 governor’s race, said the state is ready for a new voice.
“Many may find relief in Andrew Cuomo’s resignation. We would all do well to remember that his downfall came at a tremendous cost. His failings hurt New Yorkers, devastated families and victimized women. The damage he caused will not be soon repaired… but repair we must,” Molinaro said. “The legacy Andrew Cuomo leaves behind, is one of pervasive sexual misconduct, highest taxes in the nation, a $4 billion broken bridge that bears his family’s name, a deadly nursing home and IDD home coverup, and pay-to-play scandals that have corroded State government and eroded the public’s trust.
“After a global pandemic, tragic betrayal, and 10 years of Cuomo’s corruption, we desperately need honest, skillful leaders to step up, do good and get on to healing this great state. At this critical moment, New York needs a governor who can devote her full attention to our shared work. I look forward to working with Gov. Kathy Hochul,” Molinaro added.
Some female leaders from around the state, like Republican Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, point out “just because he resigned does not mean he is off the hook,” a hint lawmakers will still push for impeachment to ensure the governor will not be able to hold public office again.
Cuomo, who once campaigned on a promise to clean up corruption, is the third governor to resign in the face of scandal.
In 2008, Eliot Spitzer stepped down after he was caught in a high-priced prostitution ring.
In 2010, the man who replaced him, David Patterson, called off his campaign after allegations his administration improperly interfered in a case of domestic violence.
CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.