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Andrew Cuomo Clings To Power Amid Growing Calls To Resign As Governor

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is still governor of New York. Cuomo has dismissed talk of impeachment in the state legislature and turned aside calls from top Democrats to resign. The governor, who dominated state politics for a decade, is now accused of hiding data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and under investigation for allegations of sexual harassment. The truth is, a lot of Democrats already disliked Cuomo, including our next guest.

I guess if we were going to define you in relationship to Andrew Cuomo, like, what should we say, not a fan?

REBECCA KATZ: Antagonist.

INSKEEP: Rebecca Katz is a Democratic strategist who once worked for one of Cuomo's primary opponents. But she's not expecting the son of the late Governor Mario Cuomo to go anywhere.

KATZ: If he were to run for reelection next year, that would be for his fourth term. So basically, for many people growing up in New York, there has been a Cuomo as governor for most of their life.

INSKEEP: Yeah. It's like the Daleys in Chicago or something, except there still is a Cuomo who is there. How deeply entrenched would you say he is in his office at the moment?

KATZ: This is his hardest time in office, no doubt. Andrew Cuomo has had his share of scandals over the years. But they never made the front pages, especially not in New York City. So he had general goodwill based on the name, based on his father's name, for the 11 years he's been governor.

INSKEEP: Are you surprised that he has not resigned as so many senior Democrats have called upon him to do?

KATZ: No, I'm not surprised he has not resigned. Being governor is the main part of Andrew Cuomo's identity. I think the only way he leaves the governor's mansion is kicking and screaming.

INSKEEP: How is he able to hold onto the job, though?

KATZ: I always say ruling with fear is Andrew Cuomo's superpower. And there's a lot of people who are still very afraid of him. And remember, the other context you need to realize is the budget is happening right now. So if you want something for your district, you're not going to go and criticize Andrew Cuomo because then you're not going to get what you need for your district.

INSKEEP: Well, that's interesting because isn't the state legislature the primary body that could fire him if anybody would?

KATZ: Yes. I mean, they have said that there will be an investigation in the assembly. But the fear there is that it's toothless.

INSKEEP: Any number of political observers in thinking about Governor Cuomo have brought up the example of Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia, who was in trouble for blackface photos in a years old yearbook, among other things. And he just - he didn't go anywhere. He just declined to resign. Is there some comparison between the two governors?

KATZ: There is in that it's going to be very hard for Andrew Cuomo to go without the state assembly making him go. But the one thing that New York has that Virginia didn't have is a very, very, very aggressive press corps. Andrew Cuomo was much more in the spotlight before these scandals in a way that Ralph Northam was not.

INSKEEP: The other comparison, of course, is to Donald Trump, who faced scandals and charges of abuse of power throughout his entire term and just bored it out until he was finally defeated in an election...

KATZ: Exactly.

INSKEEP: ...And even then tried to stay on.

KATZ: Donald Trump was impeached twice and he still kept being president. If Andrew Cuomo - if the reports basically say the same things they say now, he can just come out in a couple of months and say, oh, this is old news. You already knew all this. And that's the fear.

INSKEEP: So do you think he can make it to the end of this term, which would be the end of 2022?

KATZ: I don't know. You look where he was a year ago and where he is now, and it feels impossible to predict where he will be in a year. It's about justice and if these women and if the people who died of COVID, if they get their justice. And that's what we're still going to wait and see on.

INSKEEP: Could you imagine him, even now, running for a fourth term?

KATZ: Yes.

INSKEEP: Rebecca Katz is a Democratic strategist. And we reached her in New York City. Thanks so much.

KATZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAMMAL HANDS' "SPIRAL STAIR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.