Update 8/10/21 12:12 PM: Andrew Cuomo has resigned as Governor of New York. The original article continues below.
Assuming we can get this article up fast enough, Andrew Cuomo is the 56th and current Governor of New York, the fourth most populous state (California, Texas, and Florida) and the dominant state of the American northeast (sorry, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, but it’s true). Cuomo’s tenure in Albany has been long; he’s been governor for over a decade and was previously the state’s attorney general. He’s also a creep.
At Pyramid, we try to give people the benefit of the doubt. That doubt is gone for Cuomo, who faces more than a dozen allegations of sexual misconduct. Allegations, importantly, that Cuomo doesn’t always deny so much as claim that it’s fine because he’s Italian-American. Of course, so is his brother, who seems to have not spent his entire career groping female colleagues, so maybe it’s something else, Governor.
How, though, did Andrew Cuomo get here? It’s a journey that starts in that most Italian-American of places, Queens.
Born in 1957, Andrew Cuomo is the eldest son of Mario Cuomo, who at the time was an attorney in the city. In the 1960s, Mario represented the, and you have to bear with me here, Corona Fighting 69. See, Corona is a place in New York City and a group of residents were going to be displaced for a new high school and they sued the city with Mario as their attorney.
The neighborhood was an ethnic enclave and Mario Cuomo was able to defend the residents who wanted to keep their community while negotiating with the city on how to build the new high school. It was a widely-praised result that catapulted young Mario towards politics, first as New York Secretary of State, then Lieutenant Governor, and finally, in 1983, Governor of New York.
Mario Cuomo was a reasonably popular governor – at least, for a state that tends to hate all of its elected officials – and, were he not caught in a budget showdown in 1991, he may well have been the Democratic nominee for president in 1992. But he was unable to file for the New Hampshire primary or campaign due to the need to negotiate the state’s budget.
And that’s kind of … that. Defeated in a re-election bid for governor in 1994, Mario Cuomo faded out of public life. He declined to be considered for the Supreme Court and never sought public office again.
For his son, though, things were different. Andrew had found a place for himself as an advocate for the unhoused in the 1980s, chairing the New York City Homeless Commission from 1990 until 1993. It was a good spot for him, a prominent issue where you couldn’t say the governor’s son was using his influence improperly. In 1993, Andrew Cuomo was asked to bring his expertise to the Clinton administration as Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Community Planning and Development, which is not really the kind of job you launch a prominent political career from. Unless you get lucky.
In 1995, the Clinton administration began to suspect that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros had lied to the FBI about payments he made to his former mistress. That Cisneros had a mistress was not a secret, but that he had paid off the mistress was, and in 1996 Cisneros resigned. Cuomo was elevated to the top job. He reformed mortgage guarantees to make mortgages more accessible for families and while this may have led almost directly to the subprime mortgage crisis, by then Cuomo was in a different job.
In 2002, Cuomo ran for Governor of New York and lost. Four years later, he set his sights on attorney general instead and won, handily defeating Republican Jeanine Pirro, who would go on to a career of making things up on Fox News and would eventually get sued for lying about the 2020 presidential election. Cuomo would make a decent name for himself as attorney general and use that to finally get to the governor’s office in 2010.
In Cuomo, its easy to see parallels to Mitt Romney. Romney’s father, George, was a politician, the Governor of Michigan and, coincidentally, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. George Romney was a candidate for president in 1968 but struggled to get his campaign going while former vice president Richard Nixon’s campaign took off. Mitt’s failed 2012 campaign was often compared to his father’s, and it felt obvious that Mitt saw the campaign, in part, as a way to finally accomplish what his father couldn’t.
Despite his own insistence that he doesn’t want to be president (insistence he took back almost immediately), speculation has always surrounded Andrew Cuomo. Surely he seeks to be the president – or, at least, the presidential nominee – that his father could not be.
That would be the most likely explanation for why Cuomo hasn’t resigned despite intense pressure to do so. Cuomo faces certain impeachment and has tried to offer a deal wherein he won’t seek re-election in 2022 but would be allowed to serve out his current term (in case you’re wondering how on Earth that’s a “deal,” there’s some question about whether the state legislature can actually impeach the governor over sexual misconduct, and Cuomo still has the resources to drag this out forever if he wants, so it’s a “deal” to avoid a possible scorched Earth approach). The embattled governor is probably trying to keep his political future viable.
But it just isn’t viable. Yes, Joe Biden became the Democratic nominee despite a sexual misconduct allegation, but that sole allegation was not treated as particularly credible after journalists investigated it. Even so, Biden faced a lot of heat over it (and over several other more minor allegations). No modern Democrat has been able to stand up to over a dozen accusations.
Cuomo is a multimillionaire in his sixties and resigning would make everything easier on everyone. It would preserve his hefty state pension – something that lawmakers want to make sure goes away if he’s impeached. But it would also mean, yet again, that a Cuomo leaves Albany never to resurface in politics again, a family curse that, rather than breaking, Andrew Cuomo would have sealed in stone.