New Yorkers will be rid of Gov. Andrew Cuomo at midnight Monday, even as prosecutors and some legislators seek to hold him accountable for multiple scandals.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat brought down by sexual harassment accusations, is leaving office under cover of darkness. He faces potential criminal prosecution involving some of his 11 female accusers.
After nearly 11 years in power, Mr. Cuomo, 63, has few people standing by him.
“He has an abusive style, and I think that has not served him well, which is why he didn’t have a lot of friends around him in the end,” said Rep. Claudia Tenney, New York Republican. “It was always his way or the highway.”
To the chagrin of many taxpayers, Mr. Cuomo will receive a state pension of $50,000 annually for his service as governor and four years as state attorney general. He also will have state-funded health insurance.
In his final days, Mr. Cuomo granted at least 10 clemency actions. Those include pardons for five convicted felons who lack U.S. citizenship but now will avoid deportation.
The state government continues to renounce Mr. Cuomo. The Assembly is investigating the accusations of sexual harassment, concerns that he improperly used state resources to write a book last year about the pandemic and reports that his office covered up the number of nursing home deaths related to COVID-19.
The Assembly will issue a report in the coming weeks. It’s not clear whether the report will lead to articles of impeachment that could prevent Mr. Cuomo from running for office again.
“We all believe that he would like to come back, and that probably is the reason why he resigned: so that he can run for office again,” said Leonie Huddy, chair of the political science department at Stony Brook University. “I think it’s unlikely that he gets reelected. People will remember this too vividly.”
An effort in the Legislature would erase the Cuomo family name from the former Tappan Zee Bridge, which carries Interstate 287 over a broad stretch of the Hudson River. Mr. Cuomo renamed the bridge in 2017 for his father, the late three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo.
“The governor views that bridge as his crowning achievement,” said Assembly member Mike Lawler, Rockland County Republican and sponsor of the bill to rename the bridge. “If he could have named it the ‘Andrew Cuomo bridge,’ he would have. He did that purely out of ego and vanity. He has disgraced the Cuomo family name, and it needs to be removed from that bridge. It never should have been renamed that to begin with.”
Asked for the lessons of Mr. Cuomo’s downfall, Mr. Lawler replied, “First and foremost, be a decent person. The governor, over his 11-year reign, has proven himself to be dishonest, to be corrupt, to be a predator. His downfall is his own doing.”
Even on his way out the door, Mr. Cuomo denies the harassment accusations. Still, he faces criminal probes in five local New York jurisdictions, the state attorney general’s investigation of his $5.1 million book deal and a Justice Department inquiry of crimes in the nursing home cover-up.
“There is a lot of accountability still to be had,” Mr. Lawler said. “And we will keep the pressure on to make sure that he is held accountable for his conduct, and the impact that had on the victims of both the allegations of sexual harassment and assault, and the nursing home scandal.”
A year ago, Democrats and media hailed Mr. Cuomo as the reassuring face of the fight against COVID-19. The governor’s daily televised briefings even won him an Emmy.
Ms. Tenney said the media helped create the Cuomo myth of a strong, compassionate liberal leader.
“It starts with the Albany press corps,” she said. “They were creating this narrative on this guy back when he was running in 2010 like he was going to save the world. What’s scary about the whole thing in New York is that, at the moment, he’s probably more conservative than the leadership in either of the other two houses [in the Legislature].”
Mr. Cuomo developed Democratic enemies, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“He is not normal,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters last week. “That’s not how professional people do things: to bully and harass people all day long and to spend endless hours on the phone attacking reporters, elected officials or whatever it is.”
Mr. de Blasio has met in recent days with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, the Democrat who is taking over as the state’s first female governor. The mayor said he can work with Ms. Hochul.
“Let’s go back to something approximating normalcy and just have elected officials work together and address the issues,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Some liberals and media outlets nonetheless credit Mr. Cuomo for signing legislation that legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, enacting a ban on assault rifles and other gun control measures in 2013, raising the minimum wage to an eventual $15 per hour, granting free four-year public college tuition to families earning less than $125,000 a year and providing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
Ms. Huddy said the “Me Too” movement gained new momentum due to Mr. Cuomo’s conduct.
“It really shifted opinions about Cuomo,” she said. “From a gender perspective, it does provide a way forward with the #MeToo movement that brings more people on board. These accusations were about workplace harassment. I also think they provided very clear examples of egregious behavior that provided very clear signals about what is and is not acceptable behavior in the workplace.”
Ms. Huddy said she was impressed by the shift in public opinion about Mr. Cuomo over the past year.
Republicans are hopeful that the episode will bolster their case to elect a member of their party next year for the first time since Gov. George E. Pataki won a third term in 2002.
“The last three Democratic governors have left office in disgrace,” Mr. Lawler said. “And I think New Yorkers who are pragmatic by nature are ready for change. I think there’s a recognition that one-party rule in Albany is not good.”
Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer resigned in March 2008 after he was caught in a prostitution sting in Washington. His successor, Gov. David Paterson, also was tarred by scandal, including accusations of perjury, witness tampering and unproven accusations of sex and drug antics. Mr. Paterson didn’t resign but bowed out of the race for a full term in 2010, helping clear the way for Mr. Cuomo’s ascent to the Executive Mansion.
Mr. Cuomo has said he is not sure what he’ll do next or even where he will live.
Many New Yorkers suspect Mr. Cuomo isn’t finished with the public spotlight.
“He would like to be known as the next governor,” Ms. Huddy said. “He’s a younger man. He will do something. If he does nothing, he’ll be remembered for this.”