Good Evening
Good Evening
OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Andrew Cuomo's mojo scarred by accusations personal and political

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Feb. 22.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Feb. 22. Credit: Pool / AFP via Getty Images / Seth Wenig

Third terms have a way of proving less of a charm, while bringing more harm to New York's elected officials.

The late Gov. Mario Cuomo and the late New York City Mayor Ed Koch, both Democrats, and Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato all lost their bids for fourth terms. GOP Gov. George Pataki decided it was time to go during his third. That's the point at which various organized constituencies and many members of the public have grown weary of their reelected executives.

The political question becomes whether Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will or should seek a fourth term next year. His image problems are mounting. The windfall of national-media mojo he won with his daily briefings at the height of last year's coronavirus crisis has been depleted.

Backlash has grown against Cuomo's initial decision to require nursing homes to accept COVID-19-positive patients as an emergency response to last spring's hospital overcrowding. The administration, it turned out, deliberately suppressed data about nursing-home deaths while promoting its pitch of superb performance.

Tales of alienation have added up during 10 years of Cuomo's push-and-shove dealings as governor. One dispute escalated between the governor and Assemb. Ron Kim (D-Flushing) to the point where Kim said Cuomo, in a phone call, threatened to "destroy" him for negative comments about the state's nursing home actions.

"He has abused his powers," Kim said. While Cuomo's office denies the contents of the phone exchange, the governor's response would seem far less acceptable in the greater political world today than it would have if the clash had occurred in his first term.

Benefit of the doubt is in short supply for the governor and his associates. Lawmakers of both parties have become interested in lifting Cuomo's special emergency pandemic powers earlier than they might have.

Suddenly, sexual-harassment allegations from two former state appointees are driving a cringeworthy narrative Cuomo cannot control. On Sunday, the governor was forced to backtrack on his earlier responses and agree to have state Attorney General Letitia James investigate the claims. He also said his behavior with the women "may have been insensitive" and "misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation."

Cuomo's longtime advocacy for protecting women in the workplace stands to be tarnished.

Cuomo first selected former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones. Then he proposed that state Chief Court of Appeals Judge Janet DeFiore and AG James jointly choose an independent investigator. Pushback quickly came from other elected officials including Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, New York's Democratic U.S. senators.

Days before the harassment issue broke, Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Poll, said: "Cuomo’s approval rating, which was sky high in the summer, has returned to its pre-pandemic level. Should Cuomo decide to seek a fourth term, these results suggest it will be a challenge."

How much of a challenge likely would depend, as always, on who else runs. The 2022 campaign, like Cuomo's multiple crises, has yet to play out.