Gov. Andrew Cuomo refuses to resign following the release of a bombshell report accusing him of sexual harassment and disputes the findings. What factors could force the governor to step down and how could the Cuomo sexual scandal impact the Democratic Party image ahead of the 2022 midterms?
On Tuesday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James concluded that Democratic NY Governor Andrew Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women and violated multiple state and federal laws.
Following the release of the attorney general’s explosive report, President Joe Biden called upon Gov. Cuomo to resign. Top American Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signalled their solidarity with the president, while NY State Democratic House Speaker Carl Heastie announced that the chamber is prepared to impeach Cuomo should he refuse to step down.
Cuomo Refuses to Quit
In response to mounting criticism, Gov. Cuomo made a video statement, rejecting all accusations and making it clear that he is not inclined to walk out. In addition, he released a point-by-point rebuttal – prepared by his lawyer Rita Glavin – to the findings of NY State AG James’ report.
According to Lemme, resigning would be admitting defeat and Cuomo’s ego will never allow that to happen.
“After all, he’s already said, ‘I’m not going to resign, I was not elected by the politicians, I was elected by the people’,” the political commentator remarks.
Pressure is Growing
Although the embattled NY governor remains defiant in his responses and continues to dispute the allegations, this situation can change for two reasons, believes Dr. Yu Ouyang, assistant professor of political science at Purdue University Northwest.
First, the New York state legislature may impeach and remove Cuomo from office. Second, the Albany County district attorney David Soares has opened a criminal investigation into the governor’s behaviour, which could impose further pressure on Cuomo.
In any case, it is likely that Cuomo’s political career is over, presumes Ouyang. He notes that even Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, who have long backed the governor and maintained good relations with him and his family, have called upon him to step down.
To add insult to injury, “Democrats tend to be tougher on Democratic Party candidates who are accused of sexual harassment than Republicans are on Republican Party candidates, and that will work against Cuomo,” notes John Tures, political science professor at LaGrange College in Georgia.
Although Tures believes that Cuomo may survive the latest perfect storm due to his longstanding ties within the Democratic Party, he refers to different studies showing that Dems and their constituents are especially intolerant towards sex scandals. In particular, one survey cited by Tures indicated that 57 percent of Republicans could still vote for a GOP candidate accused of harassing two women, while only 39 percent of Dems could turn a blind eye to similar misconduct by a Democratic candidate.
The latest polls have shown that 59 percent of New Yorkers, including 52 percent of registered Democrats, say Gov. Cuomo should resign from office following AG James’ damning report. Thirty two percent of New York residents felt Cuomo should serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in November 2022, while a mere 7 percent said they believe he did nothing wrong.
AP Photo / Joshua RobertsSpeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speak after US President Donald Trump agreed to a deal to end the partial government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 25, 2019
How Could the Cuomo Scandal Affect the Democratic Party?
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal suggested on 3 August that Cuomo’s problem “shines light on shifting party power structure, rise of new priorities and difficulty in steering clear of internal warfare.”
In addition to this, the Democratic Party is preparing for the 2022 midterms which, according to left-leaning and right-leaning observers, may require additional efforts from the Dems to retain control over the House and the Senate.
Still, John Di Lemme suggests that Cuomo’s scandal “won’t impact the Democrat party at all”. He refers to former President Bill Clinton who got mired in sexual scandal during his tenure in the Oval Office and was later rumoured to have visited the island belonging to paedophile millionaire Jeffrey Epstein. “Democrats still parade him around as the gold standard in their party,” Lemme notes. Yet another top level Democrat involved in a sexual harassment scandal is Joe Biden himself, the political commentator points out, referring to the accusations against Biden voiced by his former staffer Tara Reade.