Unacceptable, repulsive and illegal.
American figures and politicians have criticized and called for the resignation of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo since an investigation revealed Tuesday (3) that he had sexually harassed 11 women.
But these three adjectives particularly caught the attention of observers because they were used by a person known for her discretion, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who takes office if Cuomo resigns or is impeached.
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, especially in the public service. The Attorney General’s investigation documented the disgusting and unlawful behavior of the governor towards a number of women. believe in these women and I admire their courage to move forward, “she wrote on social media a few hours after the indictment, in which she made it clear that” no one ‘is above the law “.
The open rupture was not a “flying verba, scripta manent”, as became known the letter which opens on the Latin proverb of the deputy of the time, Michel Temer, addressed to the president Dilma Rousseff. From the top of the Atlantic, Hochul insisted on writing: “Since the Lieutenant Governor is next in line, it would not be appropriate to comment further on this moment.
It’s just that Hochul has never been so close to the post. Cuomo says he has no plans to step down, but has already lost the support of key party figures, such as other co-religious governors; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; and the country’s own leader, Joe Biden, who has said he should step down.
More important than the national bigwigs are the members of the New York Legislature, who have the impeachment in hand. House Speaker Carl Heastie, also a Democrat, said on the same day of the denunciation that Cuomo has lost the confidence of the party majority and is unable to remain in office.
It may be only a matter of time then before Kathy Hochul, 62, takes the seat for the remaining months until the next election, at the end of next year. Something that seemed unlikely to the lawyer unknown to most New Yorkers who was born in Buffalo, a town west of the state on the Canadian border.
Hochul entered politics as legal counsel to members of Congress and Senators in New York City, and from the mid-1990s to 2010 worked in the Erie County administration, where Buffalo is located. She was elected Member of Parliament in 2011, but could not be re-elected and stepped down in 2013.
In 2014, she was chosen by Governor Andrew Cuomo as his deputy in that year’s election for which she was running for a second term. Cuomo was looking for a woman to bring more diversity to his cabinet and expand his influence west of the state.
Elected, Hochul worked on gender issues, such as a campaign to specifically tackle sexual harassment in universities. “As the most senior official woman in New York City, she continues to be a champion for women and families across the state,” her profile says on the state government’s official website.
It’s not that the idea of taking over the state is exactly new to Hochul. Some of the harassment allegations filed by the New York attorney’s office on Tuesday had already been made public, and Cuomo knew sooner or later he would face this crisis.
Since December of last year, a number of women had denounced the governor for inappropriate comments and touching, hugging and kissing without consent. The investigation underway in the Assembly and which should pave the way for impeachment, for example, dates from March – and which has acquired a new sense of urgency after the denunciation this week.
At the time, Cuomo also said he would not resign. Hochul was much more discreet at the time when commenting on the case. “I am confident that all voices will be heard and taken seriously. I hope the investigation is completed as fully and quickly as possible. New Yorkers must be confident that through this process they will understand all the facts. “, did he declare.
The subject is not exactly new to American voters, and there is no need to resort to the example of former President Bill Clinton, who was impeached in the House in 1999 after allegations of sexual relations with a trainee – he was kept in office by the Senate.
There is a recent episode involving the same chair that Cuomo occupies today. In 2008, then-New York governor Eliot Spitzer, also a Democrat, resigned just over a year after taking office after allegations he was involved with prostitutes.
The biggest difference is that, unlike Cuomo, Spitzer announced two days after the scandal that he would resign. His deputy, David Paterson, completed his term and became the state’s first black governor.
The charges against Cuomo became a major nightmare for a political career that had peaked months earlier. During his third term (the New York Constitution has no term limits for governors), the son of a governor who also served three terms, Cuomo gained national and international recognition during the Crisis of Covid-19.
By taking tough measures to contain the virus that killed more than 50,000 New Yorkers, he particularly opposed then-President Donald Trump.
With daily press conferences broadcast on television and the internet to give details of the measures to fight the virus, which have turned into something of a soap opera for a population being quarantined at home, Cuomo’s name even has it. aired as a presidential candidate for the 2024 election.
Too early. Neither the post of president nor a fourth term of governor, which he had previously expressed the wish to run for, no longer seem possible in the face of the Democratic troop which has formed against him.