- Several New York state lawmakers shared their thoughts with Insider on the fate of Andrew Cuomo.
- While the Democrats largely agreed on wanting Cuomo to resign, they disagreed on impeachment.
- Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, an influential progressive, said Cuomo should be impeached if he doesn’t resign.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
New York lawmakers from the Democratic side of the aisle are calling for accountability in the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s growing sexual harassment scandal, but they say they differ on whether impeachment, resignation, or sticking with an independent investigation is the best route.
The left wing of the party has been the most aggressive, with six socialist lawmakers demanding the governor’s resignation in a letter obtained by Insider on Tuesday.
On the other end of the spectrum, leadership has resisted moving forward with impeachment or pushing for the governor’s resignation, with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, issuing a statement Tuesday that chastised Republicans for pursuing impeachment.
—David Freedlander (@freedlander) March 2, 2021
Despite members of his own caucus going public with their calls for impeachment, Heastie said Republicans are “trying to score meaningless political points” instead of helping New Yorkers struggling through the pandemic and economic malaise.
For Assemblyman Phil Steck, a Democrat representing the eastern part of Schenectady County in Upstate New York, impeachment poses a logistical problem with the state budget deadline approaching on April 1.
“Well I think calling for impeachment is not very sensible when we’re right in the middle of the budget,” Steck told Insider. “By the time the budget is done, I think we’ll be in a better position to see what the facts are with the governor.”
But Steck has also sought Cuomo’s resignation, and he said the governor’s sexual harassment and COVID-19 nursing home death scandals have rendered him ineffective as both an executive and de facto leader of the party.
“The reason I called for resignation is there is a consistent pattern of abusive behavior,” Steck said, with three women coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo.
“I can’t predict what governor Cuomo is and is not going to do,” Steck added. “But honestly I think that in the best interests of the Democrats and the party, he should resign.”
Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, a Manhattan Democrat whose district includes the Financial District and Chinatown, said she does not expect Cuomo to resign, which means that impeachment should be on the table.
“He should resign, but because that is dependent on him, we also need to be willing and ready to investigate and impeach,” Niou told Insider.
State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, an influential progressive representing a sprawling Bronx district from North Riverdale to Pelham Bay and Throgs Neck, said impeachment is the proper remedy if Cuomo won’t resign.
“Right now I’m calling for the governor to resign, but I am not ruling out impeachment and believe it would be appropriate if he chooses not to step down himself,” Biaggi told Insider.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat whose district covers three upstate counties in the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley, said the legislature should “keep all options on the table” even after moving on Tuesday to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers.
—Zach Williams (@ZachReports) March 2, 2021
“This is beyond removing emergency powers, this is about restoring a balance of power,” Santabarbara said.
The fifth term assemblyman also opened up about his decision making in initially coming forward to call for Cuomo’s resignation, recalling his Democratic colleague, Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens, disclosing a threatening phone call he says he received from Cuomo while giving his child a bath.
Santabarbara said he has also been on the receiving end of such calls.
“You know, it’s no secret that this governor has a history of bullying members of the legislature,” Santabarbara said. “It’s well known in Albany … And I gotta tell you, it’s a scary thing to get a call like that. You don’t know what’s gonna happen.”
Biaggi said she came to Albany to “break the culture of sexual harassment, abuse, and misconduct” in the Empire State capitol, and that Cuomo’s behavior cannot be tolerated.
“Based on the totality of information that we all know, there is a clear pattern of abusive behavior from our Governor that has lasted for decades,” she said. “The assertions made against the Governor by Charlotte Bennett, Lindsey Boylan, and Anna Ruch demonstrate this abuse.”
Steck added that the Cuomo allegations are “part of a pattern of an abuse of power,” and Democrats should not fall back on arguing there is a double standard for the governor compared to former President Donald Trump.
“I think if you’re comparing to Trump,” the upstate Democrat said, “you’re setting the bar too low.”