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Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns amid flurry of sexual harassment allegations

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned from office on Tuesday amid allegations that he sexually harassed and verbally abused members of his staff, and after pressure from several high-ranking state and federal officials for him to step down.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will now take Cuomo’s place in 14 days, becoming the first woman in state history to serve as governor.

"I think that given the circumstances the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to government," Cuomo said.

Hochul, a native of Buffalo, was first elected as lieutenant governor in 2014, joining Cuomo’s ticket. The pair were reelected in 2018, though Hochul faced a tough primary challenge at the time.

In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, Hochul agreed with Cuomo's decision to step down.

Cuomo's resignation wasn't a surprise. He's faced pressure in recent days to step down after a bombshell report from the Attorney General's Office found claims of sexual harassment against him to be credible.

Those claims were brought by several women, some of whom have alleged that he inappropriately touched them. One of the accusers reportedly said Cuomo reached up her blouse while they were alone.

Cuomo has denied inappropriately touching anyone while in office, and said the sexual relationships he’s had in his life have been consensual.

"I've not had a sexual relationship that was inappropriate, period,” Cuomo told reporters in early March.

"As I have said before, and I firmly believe, and my administration has always represented, women have a right to come forward and be heard, and I encourage that fully, but I also want to be clear: there is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged.”

Cuomo’s first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, accused him of trying to forcibly kiss her while the two were alone, and making inappropriate remarks to her.

His second accuser, Charlotte Bennett, has said Cuomo asked her about intimate details of her sex life, including if she would have sex with an older man.

Others echoed that behavior in the attorney general's report, with one of Cuomo's accusers claiming that he held her in an uncomfortable embrace while they were alone in a hotel room together two decades ago.

Since March, several articles have chronicled the reportedly toxic workplace Cuomo and his top aides have created in the administration, including verbal abuse toward junior staffers and implications that women should dress a certain way.

As more women came out with claims against Cuomo, more Democrats called for his resignation or for members of the state Assembly to move forward with impeachment.

President Joe Biden, after the report came out, publicly called on Cuomo to resign.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both from New York, had become the highest-ranking federal officials from New York to call for Cuomo’s resignation. Every member of Congress from New York has done the same.

And Democrats in the state Legislature had also called for Cuomo to step down, or be impeached.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester, called for his resignation in March, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, has said the Assembly has unanimously agreed that Cuomo shouldn't remain in office.

"It is abundantly clear to me that the Governor has lost the confidence of the Assembly Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office," Heastie said after the attorney general's report was released.

In March, Heastie, charged the Assembly Judiciary Committee with conducting an investigation in Cuomo's conduct to determine whether there was a case for lawmakers to impeach him and remove him from office.

It’s unclear if that investigation will continue, given that Cuomo has now left office.

That’s on top of a third investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes, where more than 13,000 people have died from COVID-19. Federal prosecutors are handling that investigation.

Cuomo is now the second incumbent Democrat in the last two decades to resign from office amid a scandal over his behavior with women.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer had also stepped down amid a prostitution scandal, allowing Gov. David Paterson to serve out the rest of his term. Cuomo was elected to replace Paterson, who decided not to run.

New York's political figures mostly welcomed the news of Cuomo's resignation, after a week of increasing demands that the governor resign from his seat.

“It is in the best interest of all New Yorkers that the Governor has resigned," House Rep. Joe Morelle said in a statement Tuesday. "These are unprecedented times and it is incumbent on all of us to remain united in our commitment to tackling the challenges we face and moving New York State forward.

“I look forward to working alongside Gov. Kathy Hochul to deliver the support families need and deserve as we continue to recover from the pandemic.”

Sen. Charles Schumer welcomed Hochul into her new position and said he has confidence that she will establish a "professional and capable administration."

"There is no place for sexual harassment, and today's announcement by Gov. Cuomo to resign is the right decision for the good of the people of New York," Schumer said.

Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Bob Duffy, who served as lieutenant governor under Cuomo from 2011 to 2014, also supported Cuomo's decision to step down.

“An expectation of leadership is to take responsibility for one’s actions," Duffy said. "Resignation is a personal decision, and I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to resign. This decision will hopefully prevent further trauma for the courageous women who came forward and it allows State government to get on with the business of serving New Yorkers."

County Executive Adam Bello offered a similar response, stating Cuomo's actions undermined the integrity of the office of governor.

“Andrew Cuomo’s decision to step down is the right thing to do given the seriousness of the findings in the Attorney General’s report," Bello said. "The Governor has lost the confidence of the people of the state of New York and of his partners in government. This allows our state to move forward."

Attorney General Letitia James, who led the investigation into Cuomo's behavior, said she is hopeful for Hochul's incoming administration.

“Today closes a sad chapter for all of New York, but it’s an important step towards justice," James said. “I thank Governor 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."

A Buffalo-native, Hochul has served as Lt. Gov. since 2015, and previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 26th District after winning a special election following the resignation of Rep. Chris Lee in 2011, who stepped down after being caught soliciting a woman through Craigslist. Hochul served until 2013, when she was defeated by Republican Chris Collins.

"Since her first election to public office in 1994, Lieutenant Governor Hochul has faithfully put the needs of New Yorkers first, has been a champion for Western NY and the Finger Lakes, and is aptly equipped to serve our State in this moment," said
Monroe County Democratic Committee Chair Zachary King. "While the circumstances are unfortunate, I congratulate incoming Governor Hochul — I speak for all Monroe County Democrats in saying we are excited for the opportunity to work alongside you."

State Sen. Samra Brouk said she was relieved by Cuomo's resignation, but said that anyone in his administration who enabled his behavior should be held accountable.

"I am relieved to hear that Andrew Cuomo has resigned from the executive chamber, but I remain concerned about the extensive network of allies who worked to help him cover and 'spin' his acts, and that the toxic work environment he fostered could persist in his absence," Brouk said in a statement. "We must work to ensure the hostile, unlawful conduct that occurred in the executive chamber is not occurring in any workplace, let alone in state government."

Democratic Assemblyman Harry Bronson said Cuomo's resignation is the first step in New York's healing,  and it will allow state government to focus to pressing issues at hand, particularly the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

"This will allow our state to move forward on the urgent issues that are major concerns for our families; the Delta variant, getting our children back in the classroom, and ensuring our families are able to get back to work in a healthy and safe environment," Bronson said.

Republican Assemblyman Josh Jensen, who represents Greece, said Cuomo stepping down is a first step toward accountability.

"The governor’s resignation announcement is not the final chapter," Jensen said in a statement. "He still needs to be held accountable for his actions; for sexual harassment and hostile workplace accusations, for New Yorkers who lost loved ones in nursing homes, for misuse of state resources, and any additional focuses of multiple ongoing investigations."

Democrats will now spend the next few months coalescing around a new candidate for governor next year. Hochul hasn’t said whether she’d run for the top job, but there certainly isn’t a shortage of elected officials who’ve expressed interest.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wouldn’t rule out a run for governor, and some have speculated the New York Attorney General Letitia James may be interested in the job. Neither have said outright that they would run.

Republicans are hoping to take the top spot in next year’s elections, and have already named their presumptive nominee: Rep. Lee Zeldin.