Just under three weeks ago, freshly minted Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams stood next to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Brooklyn church as the two shared a handshake and talk of reducing gun violence.
Asked about sexual harassment allegations against the governor, Adams told reporters: “Let the investigation go to its outcome.”
The outcome came Tuesday with the damning report released by State Attorney General Letitia James — spurring Adams to declare that Cuomo should be impeached if he doesn’t step down.
“Attorney General James conducted a thorough and revealing investigation that yielded disturbing conclusions about the conduct of Gov. Cuomo,” Adams said in a statement. “It is now the duty of the New York State Assembly to take swift and appropriate action and move forward with impeachment proceedings if the governor will not resign.”
The move puts Adams in line with Democratic leaders from Mayor Bill de Blasio to President Joe Biden as it appears the state Assembly is moving toward impeachment. But Adams could face a tricky balancing act should he, as expected, win the general election — and arrive Jan. 1 to find Cuomo somehow still in office.
Term-limited de Blasio, long a punching bag for political brawler Cuomo, has nothing to lose by turning up the rhetoric. On Monday, a day before the release of the report, he declined to rule out a run for governor next year.
“Mayor de Blasio very soon will no longer need anything from Gov. Cuomo — and that’s separate and apart from whatever personal feelings he has for the governor,” said former de Blasio press secretary Eric Phillips, a Democratic consultant.
“Whereas Andrew Cuomo’s death is far from certain, and I think Eric Adams probably understands that,” he added. “I think that justifies in the real world a much more cautious approach if you’re the incoming mayor.”
Phillips spoke before Biden became the top Democratic official to call for the governor to resign.
‘He Has to Go’
Adams’ call for impeachment follows his decidedly cautious approach to the allegations that picked up steam against Cuomo starting in late February.
“To restore faith in our government and get the answers New Yorkers deserve, there must be a truly independent investigation into these troubling reports,” Adams tweeted on Feb. 27, after the second woman came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against the governor.
By contrast, de Blasio came out swinging at his years-long political nemesis, telling CNN on March 1 that “if these charges are proven, there’s just no way he can govern.”
Cuomo for years had appeared to relish every opportunity to bash de Blasio as incompetent and to make major decisions — like shutting down the subway system in 2015 ahead of an expected blizzard — with no input from and little warning to City Hall.
Those power struggles, in which the state almost always has the upper hand, continued even in the life-and-death decisions about whether and when to shutter the city’s schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, de Blasio amped up his call for Cuomo to step down.
“Think about what it feels like to be harassed, to be assaulted, feeling that if you speak up you’re going to lose your job, lose your livelihood, lose your reputation. That’s what he did — he used his power to take advantage, and that’s unacceptable,” de Blasio said about Cuomo. “And he just, he has to go. He has to go.”
‘He Needs Adams’
Former City Council Speaker Chris Quinn said it was hard to compare anyone’s reaction to de Blasio’s given the tumultuous history between him and the governor — which only got rockier after the mayor in 2015 accused Cuomo of being abnormally vindictive.
She said Adams “has made clear his support of the women in this case.”
Quinn also questioned whether infamously vindictive Cuomo could possibly regain the political capital to punish a potential Mayor Adams — and in turn New York City residents — for calling for his ouster.
Phillips noted Adams’ call for Cuomo to go could put the mayoral candidate on political “high ground.”
“New Yorkers benefit when their mayor is in a politically strong position,” Phillips said.
Some political observers have pointed out that Cuomo needs Adams’ base of Black and Latino working-class voters in the boroughs beyond Manhattan — if he survives long enough to seek a fourth term next year.
“At the end of the day, if Andrew Cuomo can’t win the coalition of people that Adams won and brought him to City Hall, there’s no way he can be governor,” said progressive political consultant Olivia Lapeyrolerie, also a former de Blasio spokesperson. “So he quite frankly needs Eric Adams more than Eric Adams needs him — and I hope [Adams] doesn’t forget that.”