What happens if Cuomo resigns or is impeached and removed from office

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is embroiled in the biggest scandal of his career, with five women coming forward in recent weeks to accuse him of sexual harassment while he was the state's chief executive and previously, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Three former officials who worked in the Cuomo administration in the past decade, Lindsey Boylan, Charlotte Bennett, and Ana Liss, said Cuomo sexually harassed them on the job, including making romantic and sexual advances in the workplace, commenting on their appearances, questioning them about their dating and sex lives, and touching them inappropriately. Boylan says she resigned in 2018 after Cuomo kissed her on the lips without consent.

Another former official who worked for Cuomo during his tenure as HUD secretary, Karen Hinton, told the Washington Post that Cuomo held her into a too-long "intimate embrace" in a hotel room in 2000. Other former aides told the Post that Cuomo cultivated a "toxic" and tumultuous work environment where verbal harassment and yelling were an everyday occurrence. 

A fifth woman, Anna Ruch, told The New York Times that Cuomo touched her and asked to kiss her at a 2019 wedding. A friend also present at the event took photos of the encounter, which showed Cuomo holding Ruch's face. 

Additionally, Cuomo is accused by his own attorney general's office of covering up the extent of nursing home deaths in New York from COVID-19 after his administration required nursing homes to take COVID-19 positive patients from hospitals. A report from Attorney General Letitia James accuses Cuomo of potentially undercounting nursing deaths by as much as 50%. 

In a February 28 statement, Cuomo acknowledged that some of his comments to others in the workplace "have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation," adding, "To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that." He supports an independent investigation into his conduct and has directed state employees to fully comply with a probe.

Cuomo is facing a federal investigation over the nursing homes issue, and James' office is now tasked with selecting independent lawyers in private practice to conduct an independent investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations. 

New York state Sen. Julia Salazar, D-18th District, has called for Cuomo's impeachment AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File

Both conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats alike in the legislature are united in their disdain for Cuomo's leadership and have strongly condemned the compounding allegations of harassment. Democrats now hold supermajorities in both legislative chambers. 

So far, Cuomo has rejected calls for him to resign, saying on Sunday, "I'm not going to resign because of allegations. The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually anti-democratic." 

While Cuomo is known for the hard-charging and confrontational approach to politics that powered his rise to power, it's left him with few vocal allies in Albany.

A major shoe dropped on Sunday when Senate President Andrea Stewart-Cousins called on Cuomo to resign from office in a statement.

—Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) March 7, 2021

In a statement of his own, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called the allegations against Cuomo "deeply disturbing and have no place in government, the workplace, or anywhere else," stopping short of calling for his resignation but stating that "it's time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York."  

The mounting scandals facing Cuomo have also left him in a weakened position during negotiations over the state budget, which is due on April 1. 

There's no indication that Cuomo plans to resign yet, but doing so could enable him to avoid either a possible impeachment or a reelection loss in 2022. 

The last time a governor resigned was in early 2oo8, when former Gov. Eliot Spitzer left office after he admitted to having extramarital affairs with sex workers. At that time, Lieutenant Governor David Paterson stepped in as governor and served until 2010, when Cuomo (formerly New York's attorney general) won election to the governorship. 

If Cuomo doesn't resign and the allegations against him mount, he could also face impeachment. On Tuesday, six Democratic socialist state senators released a statement calling for impeachment proceedings against Cuomo, and the governor reportedly told Stewart-Cousins that if she wants him gone, she'll have to impeach him. 

The impeachment process in New York is very similar to how the impeachment of federal officials works in Congress. 

A simple majority in the state Assembly is required to impeach a governor, if the governor is impeached, the articles go to the state's impeachment court for trial, and the lieutenant governor takes over as acting governor while the trial plays out, according to Syracuse.com.

The impeachment court normally consists of the lieutenant governor, the state Senate, and the justices of the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, but the lieutenant governor and the state Senate president do not serve on impeachment courts for governors.

A two-thirds majority of the state Senate and the justices of the New York Court of Appeals would be required to convict Cuomo and remove him from office. The trial would be overseen by Chief Justice Janet DiFiore of the Court of Appeals. 

The last time a New York governor was impeached took place over a century ago in 1913, when the legislature impeached and removed former Gov. William Sulzer after he got into a nasty political battle with the Tammany Hall machine. 

New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters at a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Aqueduct Race Track, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

If Cuomo either resigned or was removed through impeachment, the state's Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul would take office and serve out the rest of Cuomo's term until 2023. If this scenario plays out, Hochul would be New York's first female governor.

Hochul, who hails from western New York, cut her teeth in Erie County government before winning a 2011 special election for New York's 26th congressional district.

As a former staffer for the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Hochul earned a reputation as a well-connected and helpful ally for upstate issues in Washington.

In 2014, Cuomo named her as his running mate for reelection after Robert Duffy announced he would not run again as lieutenant governor. Lieutenant governors are elected separately from governors in New York. 

Hochul has been a steady and vocal supporter of Cuomo since joining the administration, traversing the state in her characteristically packed public schedule to tout key initiatives.

Since the nursing home and sexual harassment scandals began drawing more press coverage, her schedule has been more limited, with only one virtual event listed for Tuesday.

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