Mar 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Reading between Cuomo's lines

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are seen walking by a TV showing a COVID-19 press briefing by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
President Trump watches as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives a televised COVID-19 briefing in April 2020. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) says he's not questioning his accusers' motives but he believes his growing chorus of critics could have many motivations to make allegations against him.

Between the lines: What's he really saying?

Axios' Kadia Goba, a native New Yorker who covered Brooklyn politics and Crown Heights for Bklyner, and Axios Politics Editor Glen Johnson offer their thought bubble about the possibilities:

Cuomo is suspicious of fellow Democrats trying to elevate themselves.

  • The governor said during a news conference Friday, "I can tell you as a former attorney general who’s gone through this situation many times, there are often many motivations for making an allegation."
  • His first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, currently is a candidate for Manhattan Borough president and challenged Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in 2020.
  • Cuomo also postures on a daily basis in the Albany power game with state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, both of whom have called on him to resign.
  • Some lawmakers remember when Stewart-Cousins, then-minority leader and the only woman in leadership, was shut out of budget talks in 2018 as leaders negotiated to include sexual harassment policy into the budget.

Electoral ambitions also are in play because the state's politics are so calcified. Cuomo has held his office for 10 years; his departure would open seats from the statewide level to the state legislature.

  • Members of Congress from New York, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, risk alienating their political bases if they're seen as choosing to believe the accused instead of his accusers.
  • New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who's also called on Cuomo to resign, is the governor's political archenemy and hasn't been shy about piling on.

Cuomo believes progressives are trying to ambush him.

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the most prominent of progressive New York Democrats and viewed as a potential challenger to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in 2022.
  • AOC recently revealed she was a survivor of sexual assault, too.
  • Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives like Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones were among a group of 10 New York Democrats who simultaneously issued news releases calling on Cuomo to resign.
  • The collective call was an effort to weaken the governor's ability to target any one member during upcoming congressional redistricting, senior Democratic aides told Axios. New York will likely lose one or two congressional seats.

Cuomo suspects Republicans may also be up to no good.

  • New York is the locus for several of the criminal investigations into Donald Trump. The state's governor has a powerful bully pulpit to weigh in on any of them.
  • Trump and some fellow Republicans also disliked what they viewed as grandstanding by Cuomo last year during his nationally televised COVID-19 press briefings.
  • Not only did Cuomo outshine Trump in public opinion polls, but his news conferences provided an instant contrast to the former president's freewheeling White House coronavirus task force briefings.

The bottom line: There's blood in the water. But if the efforts to oust the governor don't succeed, "Everyone's f**ked," one New York City lawmaker told Axios.

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