A week after the release of a damaging report on the investigation into sexual harassment allegations by nearly a dozen women, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced his resignation.
Cuomo said his resignation would take effect in two weeks. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat from the Buffalo area, will replace him, becoming the first woman to hold the position.
“I agree with Governor Cuomo’s decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers,” Hochul tweeted. “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.”
In a 22-minute video statement, the three-term governor again denied the allegations against him, said he would never disrespect women, and described the investigation and push in the state Assembly to draft articles of impeachment against him as “politically motivated.”
Nonetheless, he said, “the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing.”
The 165-page report from state Attorney General Letitia James concluded that Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former state government workers. The investigators concluded that the governor engaged in unwanted touching and made inappropriate comments. In addition, Cuomo and his aides unlawfully retaliated against at least one of the women for going public with her allegations.
Cuomo still could face possible criminal charges. Several prosecutors have said they are investigating him and at least one of his accusers has filed a criminal complaint.
“In my mind, I have never crossed the line with anyone,” Cuomo said. “But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.” (Read a full transcript of Cuomo’s resignation statement, preceded by remarks by his attorney, Rita Glavin.)
Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Bob Duffy, who served as Cuomo’s first lieutenant governor, said in a statement that “an expectation of leadership is to take responsibility for one’s actions. Resignation is a personal decision, and I agree with Gov. 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.”
Duffy also praised Hochul as “a friend, a colleague, and a remarkable representative of the people of the state of New York.”
Local democratic officials, some of whom had called for Cuomo’s resignation, agreed with his move. Zach King, chair of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, thanked the governor for his service to New York, and for “putting the state first.”
Sen. Samra Brouk, who represents the 55th District, expressed relief at Cuomo’s decision. However, she remains “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.”
“Gov. Cuomo’s decision to step down was the right thing to do, particularly given the seriousness of the attorney general’s report,” said Adam Bello, Monroe County Executive. “The governor had lost the confidence of the people of the State of New York and his partners in government and this move and action today allows the state to move forward.”
Several other organizations including the New York State United Teachers, Citizens Action and Alliance for Quality Education joined in support of Hochul’s leadership.
“Lt. Gov. Hochul is a thoughtful leader who knows the issues that impact Upstate New York
well,” Bello said. “She has served every level of government, local government, county government, state government and federal government. I look forward to working with her on behalf of all of Monroe County’s
Cuomo has been governor since taking office on Jan. 1, 2011. From 1997 to 2001, he served in President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet as housing and urban development secretary. In 2006, Cuomo was elected state attorney general, a position to which he was reelected twice before running for governor.
Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor.