New York Governor Andrew Cuomo leans on black leaders for support and focuses on governing as he faces an impeachment investigation, calls for his resignation over allegations of sexual harassment and criticism of the state’s handling of Covid- 19 in nursing homes.
Political traders and pollsters said the Democratic governor’s strategy, including appearances with civil rights leaders in New York City and on Long Island, is working for now, but they questioned how long it can be sustained.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is overseeing an investigation into allegations of harassment from current and former aides to the governor and is expected to issue a report on her findings later this year. Democrats, who control the state Assembly, are investigating the harassment allegations, as well as the state’s delayed release of a full count of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes.
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Brooklyn-based federal prosecutors have requested data on nursing home deaths and are interested in other state policies related to the facilities, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Mr. Cuomo and his attorneys have said they are cooperating with all investigations. The governor has said that he never touched anyone inappropriately and has apologized if his behavior made anyone uncomfortable. During a press call on Wednesday, he said he would not answer questions while the investigations are pending.
“I have a job to do,” Cuomo said.
Rich Azzopardi, the governor’s senior adviser, said Friday that the administration is focused on expanding New York’s vaccination program and enacting a state budget.
At an event Wednesday, the governor appeared at a Baptist church in Manhattan’s historic Black Harlem neighborhood to receive a coronavirus vaccine. He was praised by Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, and retired Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel.
Rangel said critics of Cuomo were mounting, but that “due process and a hearing is basically what we believe in in this country.”
This backdrop was intentional, political agents said. A poll released last week by the Siena College Research Institute found that 50% of 804 New York voters polled did not believe the governor should immediately resign from office. Among black voters, 69% said the governor should not resign.
“Politically, he is wounded but not dead,” said poll spokesman Steven Greenberg. Significantly, Greenberg noted, the percentage of Democrats who said they were prepared to re-elect Cuomo in 2022 had dropped to 46% in March from 65% in February.
Black voters generally make up just under a quarter of the electorate in a statewide Democratic primary, and Cuomo won them by wide margins during their respective 2014 and 2018 primary victories over Zephyr Teachout and Cynthia Nixon, who are white. .
In 2002, days before the Democratic primary for governor, Cuomo dropped out of the race after polls showed he had little chance of defeating then-Comptroller H. Carl McCall, who is black.
On Thursday, Cuomo was flanked by officials from the New York Yankees and Mets when he announced that fans would be able to attend the teams’ home games when the season begins next month. The event was closed to the press, but the news it generated was printed on the front page of the New York Daily News and Newsday.
Bradley Tusk, founder of the political consulting firm Tusk Strategies, said the baseball ad was deliberate.
“The governor has to buy as much time as he can, both to curb the momentum of the attacks against him and to show the public that he is doing other things,” he said. “The more normality returns, the more it is not invaded by scandal.”
Peter Kauffmann, a communications consultant who advised Cuomo’s first two gubernatorial campaigns, said this strategy was inspired by President Bill Clinton’s response to the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the 1990s. Cuomo served as a housing secretary in the Clinton and Kauffmann Cabinet worked for the Democratic National Committee press office during Clinton’s impeachment.
“The problem with his current crisis strategy is that we are in 2021, not 1998, and Andrew Cuomo is not Bill Clinton,” Kauffmann said, referring to changes in cultural norms and the relative charisma of men.
“Politically, he is wounded but not dead.”
Tusk said the James investigation posed a significant risk to Cuomo and that his remaining support among lawmakers could evaporate if he confirmed the allegations.
Charlie King, who ran for lieutenant governor along with Cuomo in 2002 and remains an informal adviser to the governor, agreed that the investigation’s findings would be important.
“You have to look at the totality of the facts when they come out and see what the reactions of the people are,” King said.
THE QUESTION: Who was with Mr. Cuomo when he said he would end his run for governor in 2002?
-You know the answer? Email me!
THE LAST ANSWER: Mary Anne Krupsak became the first woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor after being elected in 1974, alongside Hugh Carey, who was elected Governor.
Write to Jimmy Vielkind at [email protected]
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