A new Siena College poll out Monday offers some hope for the political survival of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has seen most elected Democrats in New York call for his resignation over sexual harassment and nursing home scandals.
The poll finds 50% of voters think the governor should stay in office, and 57% are satisfied with the way Cuomo has so far addressed the allegations of sexual harassment from multiple women. The governor offered an apology and promised to cooperate with an investigation by the state’s attorney general, as well as an impeachment inquiry by the State Assembly.
Siena’s Steve Greenberg said the survey was conducted as a growing number of New York’s Democratic politicians, including U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, called for Cuomo to resign.
“The voters are not necessarily, at the moment, following the lead of the elected officials,” Greenberg said.
The poll finds 60% of voters still think Cuomo did a good job managing the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually unchanged from a poll one month ago, before the scandals heated up.
But the governor’s political support among Democrats is plummeting. His favorable rating among Democrats dropped more than 30 points since February, and fewer than half of Democrats think the governor should try to seek a fourth term next year.
The governor also received some support from the chair of the state Democratic Party. Jay Jacobs, who Cuomo chose for the role, said now that “virtually every Democratic elected official has made their views known, and the governor has made clear that he has no intention of resigning” until the investigations are over, everyone should get back to work and focus on keeping government functioning.
Cuomo on Monday, appearing at a vaccine site on Long Island in an event that was closed to the media, tried to shift the focus to what he said are the most important parts of his job right now.
“We are at a pivotal moment in this state,” Cuomo said, “and what we decide to do now will decide the trajectory.”
The state opens up vaccine eligibility this week to those over 60, as well as workers who interact with the public. The governor, who is 63, says he will soon be vaccinated at a pop-up clinic in an African American community. And like Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was vaccinated last week, Cuomo will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The governor said he also plans to work on the state budget in the coming weeks and legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana.
Cuomo was surrounded by four women as well as African American clergy members, who voiced support for the governor. Tracey Edwards, who leads the Long Island NAACP, without mentioning the scandals, urged Cuomo to stay in office.
“You stay, continuing to lead us through this crisis,” Edwards said. “Because we need you.”
Cuomo compared the coming recovery from the pandemic to Long Island’s resiliency after Hurricane Sandy nearly nine years ago. But he also could have been talking about what he might hope could be his own political recovery.
“Sometimes God comes, and he knocks you on your rear end for one reason or another,” said Cuomo, punctuating his remarks with a sharp clap of his hands. “The question is, what you do when you get knocked on your rear end, and New Yorkers get up. And they get up stronger, and they learn the lesson.”
Cuomo did not take any questions. He did not address news stories in the Washington Post and New York Times that say his top aide in charge of distributing the vaccine, Larry Schwartz, also asked some county leaders if they continue to support the governor, despite the growing scandals.
Schwartz, in the reports, denied that he was trading vaccine doses for political support, but the calls set off alarm bells for some county officials, and at least one, according to the reports, made an ethics complaint to the Attorney General’s Office.
Republicans in the state Senate, who are in the minority party, sent a letter to Schumer and Gillibrand, asking them to have the federal government take control of the state’s vaccination distribution program.
“It would be a gross understatement to suggest that having the same man carry out both roles simultaneously is a situation fraught with profound moral and ethical conflicts,” said Senate GOP leader Robert Ortt.
In a statement late Monday, Cuomo’s acting counsel, Beth Garvey defended Schwartz saying, in a statement that “Larry's conversations did not bring up vaccine distribution -- he would never link political support to public health decisions”. And Garvey condemned the newspapers for reporting the story, saying “distorting Larry's role or intentions for headlines maligns a decades long public servant who has done nothing but volunteer around the clock since March to help New York get through the COVID pandemic”. She says any suggestion that Schwartz acted unethically “is patently false.”