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Politics and Government

Local leaders react to Cuomo’s resignation; optimistic for what’s to come

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office
Governor Andrew Cuomo

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday amid claims that he sexually harassed 11 women while in office, local leaders said they’re ready to put this dark chapter in New York’s history behind them.

“I think this is, unfortunately, a disgraceful, disappointing, and disturbing chapter in our state’s history,” said New York State Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Utica). “But now, there’s an opportunity for us to move on, to confront the challenges that are addressing and facing all regions of New York.”

Cuomo’s resignation comes one week after the New York State Attorney General’s office released a report with evidence of his sexual harassment and as an official impeachment investigation continues in the state Assembly.

During his resignation announcement Tuesday, Cuomo said his scandal had become a distraction and was taking away resources that the state should be using elsewhere. Local officials couldn’t agree more.

“I think he saw that he had become a really big distraction for the state, at a time when the fourth wave of Covid is coming through, when the state fair needs to have decisions made there, [and] school openings needs to have decisions made there,” said Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-Syracuse).

State Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) said that this has also been a huge distraction for Cuomo himself.

“I’ve been concerned lately because he’s been so distracted and, for example, when the Department of Health said they weren’t going to put up guidelines to schools about reopening–I think that was irresponsible,” said May. “So I think new leadership and having the distraction gone–we’ll have the opportunity to reset a little bit.”

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente agreed with May that the situation surrounding Cuomo has taken attention away from other pressing topics.

“The interesting thing is over the past several days since the Attorney General's report, the Governor has been absent,” said Picente, a Republican. “Which at a time when we do need the leadership, especially with this variant… it begs the question of what was it all about.”

While local officials are ready to close this chapter in New York’s history, many of them would like the impeachment investigation to continue.

“I think it's very important that we not just, you know, cast this aside with the resignation and say all is done,” said Picente. “Other people need to be held accountable and should be as well as the governor himself.”

State Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R-Pulaski) agreed with Picente that the judicial process should continue.

“I don’t think that should just go to waste,” Barclay said. “I think there ought to be accountability for some of that that happened there. I don’t think this resigning excuses the governor from accountability in that regard.”

“They’ve spent four or five months now doing the investigation and I don’t think it makes sense just to drop it without any results to show for it,” said Assemblyman Stirpe.

While Cuomo’s actions were condemned by nearly all public officials, even as far up as President Joe Biden, many are noting that some good did come out of this entire situation.

“People are getting the message that we have to listen to women, that’s it’s not okay to come out and bluster and say ‘they’re wrong,’” said Senator May. “We have to listen to them, and not just the women who step forward, but the Attorney General who I think did a very careful and responsible job of following up on those accusations. So I do think women shine through in this moment.”

While this is a difficult time for any top official to leave office, leaving local lawmakers optimistic is the appointment of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to the state's top job, making her New York’s first female governor. Hochul, who is a Syracuse University graduate, has been very active in central New York politics during her time in office. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh hopes to see that continue.

“Lieutenant Governor Hochul has always shown to me that she cares about Syracuse, both personally and professionally, and she’s always shown an interest in our projects and initiatives. So, that bodes well for Syracuse going forward,” said Walsh.

State Sen. John Mannion (D-Syracuse) said he’s confident in Hochul’s ability to serve not just New York as a state, but each region of it on a local level.

“She understands upstate New York, which I think is important. But really, she can work with all areas of the state,” said Mannion. “She’s a strong leader, I support her and I’m looking forward to working with her.”

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is hoping Hochul will take a more hands-off approach in her governance–deferring to the county executives for local leadership.

“Hopefully her approach will be: we’re [the] county executives, we’re the generals on the ground in this response to COVID and recovery as well, and we’re good sources of intelligence, and hopefully we’ll have a bottom-up approach as well,” said McMahon.

Cuomo is now the second of the past three New York State governors to resign amid scandals, leaving many New Yorkers wondering what it will take to rid Albany of any more corruption.

“We need an ethics process that really holds people accountable,” said Senator Mannion. “I’m supportive of that. Many of my colleagues have legislation that’s out there that I support. And we need that oversight. We can’t have control overly centralized in the governor’s office and right now, that’s what we have.”

State Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter (D-Syracuse) agreed with Mannion that this may be the time to reconsider such an executive hierarchy in state government.

“I think in some ways now, perhaps, the Legislature needs to reel some of that back in, so it isn’t just a heavily-handed-governor-led state, that there needs to be more inclusion into decision-making,” said Hunter.

New Yorkers have endured a tremendous amount in these past two years and many officials are hoping this change in leadership will be a step in the right direction.

“We have needed ethics reform in New York State for a long time,” said Senator May. “Andrew Cuomo was an impediment to that and I think that we will get some of the changes that we need.”

Cuomo’s resignation will be effective on August 24.

WRVO's Tom Magnarelli, Ellen Abbott and Jessica Cain contributed to this story.