Cuomo considers options after DA decisions amid rumors of New York AG run
Nearly six months after resigning from office on Aug. 23, 2021, Andrew Cuomo has taken a small step toward reentering public life, claiming that his name was cleared by multiple district attorneys who declined to press sexual harassment charges against the former New York governor despite finding credible allegations against him.
“If you do an honest summary, which is what I get from people on the street, I have been vindicated,” Cuomo told Bloomberg News on Friday. Until recently, he has largely avoided press contact while the criminal investigations and machinations have played out.
Cuomo’s claim of vindication comes despite a mountain of sexual misconduct accusations against him detailed in a state attorney general’s report in August and reinforced by a state Assembly report in November.
And his hint at a victory tour arrives amid rumblings that he may be eyeing a run for state attorney general.
On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported that unnamed political operatives described coming away from conversations with Cuomo thinking that he may be toying with a run against state Attorney General Letitia James, another Democrat.
Her bombshell probe found Cuomo, a former state attorney general himself, had sexually harassed at least 11 women. The report led to his resignation, and the autumn Assembly report said the evidence of his sexual misconduct was “overwhelming.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the political operatives said Cuomo did not explicitly describe his intention to run against James, but that his questions implied a possible campaign.
A spokesman for Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, dismissed the chatter.
“If that’s true, then I’m running for governor myself!” Azzopardi, who declined to make Cuomo available for an interview for this story, said in a statement. “Listen, there are a lot of silly rumors running around this town, and we can’t help it if some people are still fixated on us.”
Cuomo has enjoyed a series of small legal victories in recent weeks, as successive prosecutors declined to charge the 64-year-old Democrat. Five criminal probes of Cuomo have concluded without charges.
Last month, the Albany County district attorney, David Soares, dropped a forcible touching charge, but issued a statement saying he was “deeply troubled” by the allegations of Brittany Commisso, a former aide to the governor.
In the statement, Soares said she was “cooperative and credible,” but that his office could not “meet our burden at trial.” Commisso had asserted that Cuomo groped her breast in 2020.
The charge was dropped three days before Cuomo was due in court.
Another prosecutor who passed on charging Cuomo, Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes, coupled his decision with a plea to legislators, saying that state laws had hamstrung his office.
Oakes’ office had probed an allegation from Virginia Limmiatis, a National Grid spokeswoman who said Cuomo had touched her chest at an event in 2017.
Limmiatis issued a statement last week saying she was pleased that Cuomo was “forced to step down and held to account,” and that she was “proud to stand with all the women who had the courage to report his misconduct.”
Cuomo, who has denied accusations of harassment, took an unrepentant tone in the Friday interview.
“I never resigned because I said I did something wrong,” Cuomo told Bloomberg, which published its story Monday. “I said, I’m resigning because I don’t want to be a distraction.”
Cuomo, who is sitting on a $16 million war chest, appeared to brush off the possibility of a run against James, saying, “Vindication is not the reason to run for office.”
A Siena College poll found Cuomo’s statewide favorability at 34%, and his unfavorability at 55%, in September 2021.
By comparison, James had a 38% favorability rating and an 18% unfavorability rating. (Her ratings climbed to 40% and 25%, respectively, in a different Siena College poll that did not include Cuomo in January.)
James launched an uneventful, 41-day run for governor in the fall, dropping out of the race in December. Her office responded derisively to Cuomo’s recent claim of vindication.
“No one, including Andrew Cuomo, can dispute the fact that multiple investigations found allegations of sexual harassment against him to be credible,” James’ office said in the statement. “His baseless attacks won’t change the reality – Andrew Cuomo is a serial sexual harasser.”
Jay Jacobs, the New York State Democratic Party chairman, said that he did not think the time had come for a Cuomo campaign.
“I think that there’s near-unanimous agreement that his leaving office was the right thing for him to do,” he said. “A political campaign should not be about vindication or vengeance, it should be about vision. It should be about the voters.”