The Rise and Fall of Andrew Cuomo
Final spring, when the coronavirus outbreak was surging in New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s every day briefings grew to become appointment tv for a lot of, as he authoritatively ticked by the newest statistics on infections, hospital beds and deaths.
Behind the scenes, Mr. Cuomo was usually obsessive about one other set of numbers: his rankings. He would typically quiz aides as quickly as he ended a broadcast about which networks carried him stay and precisely once they reduce away — information they had been anticipated to have at their fingertips.
For an image-obsessed politician who has lengthy devoured nearly every part written about him, it was an intoxicating quantity of consideration as Mr. Cuomo reworked nearly in a single day right into a nationwide chief of the Democratic Occasion and a foil for President Donald J. Trump. “To the 59 million viewers who shared in these every day briefings,” Mr. Cuomo mentioned on his 111th and remaining every day replace, “thanks.”
That June day Mr. Cuomo gathered his crew within the yard of the governor’s mansion in Albany for a principally mask-less celebration — an aide mentioned attendees took assessments for the virus — toasting their accomplishments with beer and wine. For some allies of Mr. Cuomo, that interval was the apex of an Icarus-like arc for a pacesetter satisfied of his personal hype and indestructibility.
Lower than a yr later, Mr. Cuomo’s governorship is imperiled, as he faces allegations of groping, sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct made by six girls; an impartial investigation into these accusations; an impeachment inquiry by state legislators; a federal investigation into his dealing with of nursing houses throughout the pandemic; and collapsing help from leaders in his personal occasion.
But for all of that, Mr. Cuomo is now furiously plotting a path to salvage his job, his legacy and even a possible fourth-term re-election run in 2022, in line with Democrats accustomed to his considering. In defiant remarks on Friday, Mr. Cuomo accused Democratic leaders of “enjoying politics” by calling for him to resign and demanded they watch for the “info” as he impugned the motives of the ladies who’ve come ahead.
“Rather a lot of folks allege rather a lot of issues for lots of causes,” Mr. Cuomo mentioned, denying he ever sexually harassed anybody.
Be it his self-regard, his disdain for fellow Democrats or his imperious demeanor, Mr. Cuomo alienated allies and enemies alike on his means up in politics, and now finds himself sliding from hero-level worship to pariah-like standing with the type of astonishing pace that solely the friendless endure. It’s a downfall foretold in a decade-long reign of ruthlessness and governance by brute drive, in line with interviews with greater than two dozen lawmakers, elected officers, present and previous Cuomo administration officers, political activists and strategists within the state.
For Mr. Cuomo, politics has all the time been a zero-sum recreation: For him to win, another person should lose, whether or not it’s the legislator whose concept he takes credit score for, or Mayor Invoice de Blasio, whose initiatives he routinely stomped. The identical domineering method that received plaudits within the depths of the coronavirus disaster has bruised a technology of Mr. Cuomo’s friends, such that many had been able to activate him as soon as weak.
“The downside with Cuomo is nobody has ever preferred him,” mentioned Richard Ravitch, a former Democratic lieutenant governor. “He’s not a pleasant particular person and he doesn’t have any actual buddies. If you happen to don’t have a base of help and you get into hassle, you’re useless meat.”
New York’s two Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have now deserted him, together with most of the state’s congressional delegation. A majority of the State Legislature, whose members he has lengthy handled dismissively, have known as on him to resign, together with greater than 40 % of his fellow Democrats.
“I’ve not met an individual but in New York politics who has an excellent relationship with Andrew Cuomo,” mentioned State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, a Democrat and outspoken critic of the governor who additionally as soon as labored in his administration. “And I’m not saying ‘shut relationship,’ I’m saying ‘good relationship.’ Even people who find themselves near him I can not say in good religion have an excellent relationship with him.”
As one Cuomo adviser put it, the governor has burned so many bridges that he has left himself with just about no path ahead. But those that have been near Mr. Cuomo say they can’t think about him resigning, not least as a result of it will go away him quick of matching the three full phrases of his father, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, not to mention topping him with a fourth by operating in 2022.
The elder Mr. Cuomo, who died in 2015, looms giant in nearly any dialogue of the youthful Mr. Cuomo’s ambitions to remain within the governorship. At Andrew’s third inaugural handle, the one during which he equaled his father, he wore a pair of Mario’s sneakers, in line with an individual accustomed to his wardrobe.
Even in his present diminished state, Mr. Cuomo maintains some formidable political strengths, together with a virtually $17 million struggle chest. His top authorities aides have been tweeting about his polling numbers and Mr. Cuomo believes the impression he made in these virus briefings will outlast any short-term injury, in line with folks accustomed to his considering. “New Yorkers know me,” as Mr. Cuomo mentioned on Friday.
And if there’s a fashionable playbook for surviving scandal, it begins with one clear rule: Don’t stop.
Mr. Trump ignored calls to step down because the Republican nominee in 2016 after a tape emerged of him bragging about grabbing girls’s personal components. Former Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a Republican, completed his time period after mendacity about his adulterous “Appalachian Path” journey. And Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, a Democrat, survived widespread resignation calls over a photograph that appeared to indicate him in blackface.
Mr. Cuomo’s advisers have been reaching out to labor and enterprise leaders. And he has been maneuvering to consolidate and burnish help within the Black neighborhood, particularly after the Legislature’s two prime Democrats, each of whom are Black, have taken steps to push him out. His look final week flanked by Black clergy leaders, ostensibly to advertise vaccine efforts in New York Metropolis, struck many as an particularly brazen instance of constituency politics.
And he’s demanding that the lawyer normal’s investigation proceed, clinging to a attainable 2022 run as a bargaining chip to avert resignation or impeachment. His endgame is unclear. Greater than something, Andrew Cuomo is now attempting to purchase himself time.
Holding tight to his identification
The governor’s mansion in Albany is steeped in historical past: It’s the former house of Nelson Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and, of course, Mr. Cuomo’s father. And since Mr. Cuomo’s cut up along with his longtime girlfriend, the tv character Sandra Lee, and her sale of their Westchester house, Mr. Cuomo has lived within the mansion full time.
The 63-year-old Democrat owns no different property. He rents no second condo that anybody in his orbit appeared to be conscious of.
Every little thing about Mr. Cuomo — his house, his legacy, his identification — is wrapped up in a governorship now below siege. On Friday he was seen striding the mansion’s grounds, draped in a blanket, his cellphone pressed to his ear.
Being governor, in different phrases, is his oxygen.
Final yr, he produced a large foam mountain to memorialize the state’s declining virus caseload, and proudly posed earlier than it. He commissioned a self-referential poster, full with an image of Mr. Cuomo in a muscle automobile and pictures of his advisers (“Magnificent Melissa” for his prime aide, Melissa DeRosa). And he solid apart warning to write down a self-congratulatory guide of “management classes” that printed mid-pandemic, successful himself a reported seven-figure advance.
“There’s been nobody across the governor to avoid wasting him from himself,” mentioned Mitchell Moss, a professor of city coverage at New York College whom Mr. Cuomo appointed to a transit advisory council in 2017. “He might intimidate even the individuals who ought to be giving recommendation.”
Mr. Cuomo has all the time stored his personal counsel and his internal circle has shrunk through the years as waves of advisers have drained of his unrelenting and mercurial calls for. Amongst these nonetheless offering recommendation, past his senior authorities workers, are Steven M. Cohen and William Mulrow, two former prime officers within the governor’s workplace; Jefrey Pollock, his pollster; Charlie King, a longtime ally; and Jay Jacobs, the state Democratic Occasion chairman.
His loyalists felt his wrath particularly over the past yr when he would lash out if different politicians, particularly Mr. de Blasio, acquired credit score for virus-battling successes or initiatives.
When Mr. de Blasio at one level made an announcement of a cargo of provides, together with ambulances, from the Federal Emergency Administration Company, Mr. Cuomo berated the regional F.E.M.A. administrator, Thomas Von Essen, in unusually blunt vogue for not delivering provides by the state, in line with an individual accustomed to the decision. Mr. Von Essen declined to remark.
In one other episode, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio greeted the coming U.S.N.S. Consolation, the navy hospital ship, from separate piers. Mr. Cuomo pulled out of what had been deliberate as a possible joint look, in line with folks concerned within the planning.
The governor scheduled his occasion an hour sooner than Mr. de Blasio’s — seemingly unwilling to share the highlight.
A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo denied there had been a deliberate joint occasion with Mr. de Blasio, that he had berated Mr. Von Essen or lashed out at aides when Mr. de Blasio would obtain credit score for anti-virus initiatives.
Mr. Cuomo’s bullying — a long-known side of his type — has been solid by his allies as merely his means of getting issues executed. He has strong-armed legislators and anybody else who dared cross him in a decade-long run of productiveness that included legalizing homosexual marriage, passing stronger gun management measures, elevating the minimal wage and starting quite a few main infrastructure tasks.
However these techniques at the moment are being seen in a special mild, serving to create an workplace tradition that may very well be poisonous, notably for younger girls.
Ever since Mr. Cuomo broke onto the political scene he has carved a popularity as a brash hard-charger. As govt director for his father’s transition crew, after the 1982 victory within the governor’s race, the youthful Mr. Cuomo kicked his toes up on a desk throughout an interview with The New York Instances, lit a cigarette and declared, “I’ve grow to be very fashionable recently.”
Norman Adler, a senior aide on that 1982 marketing campaign, mentioned the present tales of an abusive tradition within the youthful Mr. Cuomo’s workplace as we speak rang acquainted.
The three-term governor is confronting two crises concurrently:
“Left to his units, that may have been the ambiance throughout the Mario Cuomo marketing campaign,” Mr. Adler mentioned. “Bullying, yelling, placing folks down. He was, like — the trail was muddy so he took your coat so he wouldn’t get his boots soiled.”
Throughout Mario Cuomo’s governorship, his son was often known as the enforcer.
“Mario bought to be the great man, and when it was time for somebody to not be the great man, it was Andrew’s job,” mentioned Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Democrat who has served for 50 years. “He was superb at it.”
Mr. Cuomo would be a part of an American political dynasty in 1990, marrying Kerry Kennedy. The union was deemed “Cuomolot.”
And he rose in nationwide politics, turning into housing secretary in President Invoice Clinton’s second time period.
In 2002, Mr. Cuomo sought to avenge his father’s loss eight years earlier to George Pataki, a Republican. However Mr. Cuomo by no means made it that far, withdrawing from a Democratic major he was shedding. Ms. Kennedy requested to separate quickly after, in line with Mr. Cuomo’s biographer, representing the low level of Mr. Cuomo’s private and skilled life.
He rehabilitated his picture with a 2006 run for lawyer normal and served one time period earlier than operating for governor in 2010, a pathway cleared by the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer and a scandal that pressured Mr. Spitzer’s successor, Gov. David Paterson, to exit the race. Then, it was Mr. Cuomo doing the investigating; now he’s the one being investigated.
Historical past repeats itself
What has struck veteran New York political watchers is simply how comparable the arc of Mr. Cuomo’s downfall has felt to Mr. Spitzer’s collapse. Each rose to the highest with sharp elbows and then discovered treasured few buddies of their hours of want.
Quickly after taking workplace, Mr. Spitzer famously raged that he was a “steamroller,” threatening to crush a state legislator. This yr, Mr. Cuomo’s run of unfavourable press intensified after he berated Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat, who mentioned the governor had threatened to “destroy” him. The dialog felt so acquainted to those that have labored with Mr. Cuomo that his workplace’s denial was largely dismissed.
“They’re reduce from the identical material,” Senator James Tedisco, the Republican that Mr. Spitzer cursed at, mentioned of Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Cuomo. “They’ll do absolutely anything they’ll to get their means and attempt to destroy you.”
This week, Mr. Tedisco mentioned, “Andrew Cuomo is the steamroller that has run out of gasoline.”
However for greater than a decade, Mr. Cuomo divided and conquered Albany in singular vogue, intimidating rivals, dominating the phrases of debate and serving to allow Republican management of the State Senate, for a interval, by a renegade faction of Democrats, often known as the Unbiased Democratic Convention.
In consequence, the mainline Democratic chief, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, was thwarted in her bid to grow to be the primary Black girl to steer a legislative chamber. In a single tense 2017 assembly, Mr. Cuomo dismissed her understanding of suburban politics. Ms. Stewart-Cousins accused him of seeing solely “my Black pores and skin and a lady.”
The subsequent yr, a gaggle of progressive challengers, together with Ms. Biaggi, ousted a half-dozen I.D.C. senators. With Democrats in full management after 2018, Mr. Cuomo might now not situate himself on the political midpoint of each deal.
The panorama in Albany has shortly shifted. Practically half the State Senate is new since 2018. And there may be now a supermajority of 43 Democrats amongst whom Mr. Cuomo counts just about no sturdy allies, in line with a number of legislators. In a transfer that many on the left noticed as poetic justice for his position in maintaining her out of energy, Ms. Stewart-Cousins was among the many first distinguished Democrats to name for Mr. Cuomo’s resignation.
The Democrats who led the cost for Mr. Cuomo to resign are extra politically progressive than he’s. The three-term governor has improbably tried to painting himself as an outsider by dismissively saying of his fellow occasion officers on Friday, “I’m not half of the political membership.”
Within the short-term, Mr. Cuomo’s destiny rests within the State Meeting, the place impeachment begins and the place he has extra of a political foothold; 23 girls in that chamber pushed again this previous week on requires his quick resignation, asking for Legal professional Normal Letitia James to finish her investigation first.
Mr. Cuomo is alleged to see Ms. James as his most formidable potential major challenger ought to he survive and run once more subsequent yr. For now, the most important destabilizing drive for Mr. Cuomo is the uncertainty of what new allegations every day will carry. His therapy of others, over so a few years, makes it unattainable to foretell what lies forward.
Jesse McKinley contributed reporting.
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