ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) — Most New Yorkers don’t want Governor Andrew Cuomo to step down in response to mounting claims of sexual harassment, the Siena College Research Institute reported Monday.
Against 35% who said he should resign, Sienna found that 50% want the three-term Democrat to stay right where he is, riding out an investigation into at least six accusations of sexual harassment.
Cuomo, 63, has steadfastly denied the allegations against him — all by women, several of them former aides — while apologizing for any behavior that may have made women feel “uncomfortable or awkward.” Though a growing number of state and federal lawmakers have cited lost confidence in his leardership, Cuomo has said it would be undemocratic to bow down to resignation pressure.
Siena conducted its poll last week, reaching 430 voters on their cellphones or landlines, and another 375 voters who are members of an online panel.
The results show a 57-32% split between New Yorkers satisfied with the way Cuomo has addressed the allegations.
A significant chunk of New Yorkers polled, 41%, were undecided on whether the allegations of sexual misconduct meant the governor had committed sexual harassment. Nearly a quarter said he has not, and 35% said he did.
Political affiliation plays a role in how voters view the governor.
“Nearly two-thirds of Republicans say Cuomo should resign, however, 61 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of independents, a plurality, say he should not,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said. “A majority of New York City voters and a plurality of voters from both upstate and the downstate suburbs say he should not resign.
One of the latest calls for Cuomo to resign came Friday evening from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The reaction from two of the Empire State’s highest-ranking Democrats came hours after seven congressmen and women made similar demands. And on Thursday, dozens of Democratic members of the state assembly and senate signed a joint letter demanding Cuomo hand over the office to his second-in-command for the remainder of his term.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that a longtime Cuomo adviser tasked with leading the state’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout has been calling county executives to ascertain their loyalty to the governor during the harassment probe launched by Attorney General Letitia James.
During the call from vaccine “czar” Larry Schwartz, according to the report Sunday, an unnamed Democratic county executive disclosed fears that his county’s vaccine supply could be impacted if he did not indicate support for Cuomo.
Rattled by the implication of Schwartz’s call, the county executive told the newspaper that he filed notice of an impending ethics complaint with the public integrity unit of the state Attorney General’s Office on Friday.
Schwartz, who is working in a volunteer capacity to run the state’s Covid-19 vaccine distribution, acknowledged making the calls to county executives, but told the Washington Post he “did nothing wrong” and had not discussed vaccines in those conversations.
Beth Garvey, acting counsel to Cuomo, defended Schwartz on Monday, writing in a statement that he would never link political support to public health decisions.
“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,” Garvey said. “Any suggestion that Larry acted in any way unethically or in any way other than in the best interest of the New Yorkers that he selflessly served is patently false."
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden declined Sunday to call for Cuomo’s resignation. “I think the investigation is underway and we should see what it brings us,” Biden told a reporter outside the White House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi similarly shied away when asked for her take Sunday morning on ABC's "This Week."
"The governor should look inside his heart, he loves New York, to see if he can govern effectively," Pelosi said, after emphasizing her belief that women should be believed.
Cuomo did not address the scandal during a closed press event on Monday, held at the one of the state’s mass vaccination sites at SUNY Old Westbury on Long Island.
At a press conference on Friday, Cuomo discounted the latest calls for his resignation from state lawmakers and congressional delegates as “politics at its worst.”
“People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth. Let the review proceed, I’m not going to resign,” he said. “I was not elected by the politicians; I was elected by the people.”
Siena College’s latest poll shows just one third of voters say they are prepared to reelect Cuomo if he runs in 2022, and 52% say they would “prefer someone else,” down significantly from 46-45% in February.
Cuomo won reelection for his third term in 2018 with over 3.5 million votes, nearly 60% of the state’s vote, after defeating actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.