After initial praise, Governors Cuomo and Newsom face political problems over the response to COVID-19


Two Democratic governors initially praised for their response to COVID-19 are now facing backlash for their handling of the disease nearly a year after it began.

Californians were outraged when they saw photos of Governor Gavin Newsom eating at Napa Valley’s upscale French Laundry restaurant while parts of the state were closed, fueling momentum for the impeachment effort against him.

In New York, the FBI and Brooklyn federal prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home policies after his administration concealed the total number of COVID-19-related nursing home deaths for months.

Both Republicans and Democrats are outraged at him, and he faces a possible reprimand from his own party and calls for his resignation from the Republican Party.

Cuomo’s troubles escalated in January after New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a report saying that nursing home deaths “may have been underestimated.” The Cuomo administration later revealed that nearly 15,000 nursing home residents had died, up from the 8,500 originally reported; the lower figure did not include residents who had died in hospitals.

Last week, one of the top aides to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, told lawmakers that the administration came to a “standstill” when state lawmakers and the Justice Department requested the nursing home data; he was concerned that the information would be “used against us.”

Cuomo apologized this week for the “gap” in the information on nursing home deaths.

Democratic state senator Andrea Biaggi, a critic of Cuomo, told CBS News that there is a “growing feeling” among her colleagues that “the governor’s expanded emergency powers should be curtailed and withdrawn.” The powers of attorney will expire at the end of April. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​said in a statement Wednesday, “We certainly see the need for a quick response, but we also want to move toward a system of greater oversight and review.”

Cuomo said Friday that he told legislative leaders he wants to “tone it down.” But he believes some people are spreading misinformation about nursing homes, and says he will “aggressively counter it.”

One target of Cuomo’s ire is Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim, who has been critical of Cuomo’s nursing home policies. Last week, Kim accused Cuomo of calling him at home and spending “approximately ten minutes threatening my career,” he said in an interview. Kim claims that Cuomo asked her to issue a statement defending DeRosa. A senior Cuomo adviser accused Kim of lying and having a “long and hostile relationship” with the governor.

“Every time we speak, every time we criticize, punish or threaten us and the media vilify us,” Kim said.

State Senator Gustavo Rivera told CBS News that he has not received any threatening calls from Cuomo, but was contacted by Joe Percoco, a former Cuomo aide who was convicted of bribery in 2018. Rivera said he does not want Cuomo to run in 2022..

“Their presence and their toxicity make it difficult to govern this state,” Rivera said. “It’s your way or it’s your way.”

A Siena College Research Institute poll released this week, conducted before DeRosa’s comments, found that Cuomo’s overall approval rating was 56%, down from 77% last April. Sixty-one percent of New Yorkers approved of his handling of the pandemic, but only 39% believe he has done a good job making all the data on COVID deaths in nursing homes available.

Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg notes that Cuomo’s decline in favorability is largely due to the loss of Republican support.

“There has not been any scandal that has had a long-term impact on the way New York Democrats feel about Andrew Cuomo,” Greenberg said.

Cuomo has $ 17 million in his campaign account and easily defeated previous primary rivals. A victory in 2022 would make him the first New York governor elected to a fourth term since Nelson Rockefeller. Cuomo’s father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, lost his bid for a fourth term to Republican George Pataki in 1994.

California Democrats have also battled Newsom over COVID. The governor pushed to reopen schools this month, but the Democratic state Senate passed legislation setting an April deadline, which Newsom said he would veto. And state legislators too criticized The sudden lifting of orders to stay at home by Newsom. But agents like Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Gonzalez say the criticism won’t translate into support for Newsom’s impeachment.

First-year state senator Dave Min called the withdrawal an attempt to “fabricate a crisis” and take advantage of the discontent around COVID “to remove a governor they didn’t like from the start.”

“There is certainly fatigue with Covid and many of the restrictions. But the silent majority are following the protocols, following the science. They are being kidnapped by this angry and noisy minority,” Senator Min said.

Organizers of the withdrawal movement say they have collected more than 1.6 million signatures. The signatures must be verified by March 17 and it takes 1.5 million to start a special recall election.

As of February 5, they had submitted 1,094,457 signatures and had 668,202 validated signatures.

González said that while a recall election “would certainly leave a stain” on Newsom’s re-election campaign in 2022, it will not “define his legacy.”

Newsom was elected in 2018 with 62% of the vote, and now has an approval rating of 46% to 52%. Earlier in the year, he had $ 20 million in cash on hand, an advantage for a possible recall campaign, as there are no contribution limits in California in the face of a recall.

“I wish we had resilience in New York State,” New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said at the California Republican Party Convention on Friday.

Cuomo and Newsom are fending off more salvoes in part because of the attention they receive as governors of large states, as well as the ever-changing nature of politics around COVID, says Democratic strategist Jared Leopold.

“One day your status is at the bottom of the infection or vaccination list, and the next day it is at the top,” he said. “This crisis is not a short-term sprint, it is a long-term marathon. The coronavirus is going to define many elections in 2022, but the question is where are the governors’ legacies on that issue in 2022, not where they are. February 2021 “.

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