Don't Say Goodbye to Cuomo Just Yet

Cuomo remains popular and has $18 million in his campaign war chest

Former New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D.) / Getty Images
August 12, 2021

Democratic New York governor Andrew Cuomo's resignation came as such a surprise that it's worth asking if he's really done with politics for good.

Cuomo's Tuesday announcement that he would leave office came because he lost the faith of state legislators, who publicly promised to move forward with impeachment proceedings, according to reports. Cuomo did not, however, admit to any wrongdoing: His resignation came immediately after his legal representative delivered a rebuttal of each of the 11 allegations from women who said they were sexually harassed by the governor.

Cuomo remains popular with New Yorkers, he's got millions in campaign funds to spend, and he's never been particularly afraid of media scrutiny. He may have resigned, but it's highly unlikely we've seen the end of Cuomo.

Polling shows that Cuomo maintained popularity up until his announcement. On Aug. 9, the day before Cuomo resigned, the Democratic polling firm Slingshot Strategies released a survey that showed him with a 1-point lead out of 15 potential gubernatorial candidates, with 28 percent support. New York attorney general Letitia James (D.) took second place, with 27 percent support, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.) came in third, with 25 percent support. Cuomo's job approval rating sat at 72 percent, making him one of the most popular governors in the country. Just 40 percent of New Yorkers said he should be removed from office.

The only thing stopping Cuomo from running for governor again would be an impeachment and conviction by New York Democrats, a proceeding several observers say will move forward whether Cuomo is in office or not. State senator Andrew Gounardes, a Democrat, made clear in an interview that "the impeachment investigation does not stop automatically just because the governor resigned."

Cuomo must present a response to the allegations against him to the New York Assembly by Friday. He has already called all of the sexual harassment allegations from 11 different women false and derided James's investigation into his conduct as "politically motivated." His upcoming replacement, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (D.), refused to comment on whether she believes impeachment proceedings should carry on. She said, however, that she plans on serving out a full term until 2022 and then running again for reelection.

Even after his removal from Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue, Cuomo sits on an $18 million campaign war chest—more than 10 times the amount Hochul has banked and one of the largest totals of any Democratic politician ever.

New York election law places restrictions on how he can spend that money. Cuomo cannot, for example, spend that money to run for federal office or any positions in New York City. He can use those funds to donate to other candidates, transforming his campaign account into a sort of political action committee.

National leaders of his party, ranging from President Joe Biden to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), called on Cuomo to resign and spare the public the spectacle of a drawn-out trial.

But Cuomo, who faced legal scrutiny over his handling of nursing home patients and misleading the public on how many died during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, has never felt an obligation to humor his critics. Recall his 2014 decision to disband an investigation into public corruption in New York and the recently revealed complaint he lodged with the Obama White House for looking into that decision. He felt no shame in complaining to Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett about the Department of Justice probe and easily glided to reelection that November. Recall also his first foray into electoral politics, back in 2002, when his campaign imploded following a widely derided attack on Republican George Pataki's conduct in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Cuomo refused calls to drop out of the race, even though his chances of winning had virtually disappeared.

Anyone who thinks this resignation is the end of Cuomo should consider whether riding into the sunset on his motorcycle sounds like the man who ran New York for the last decade.

Published under: Andrew Cuomo