How a Chain of Creeps Paved the Way for New York’s First Woman Governor
The story started with Eliot Spitzer, and it took 13 years and nearly as many scandals to get us to this point.
How many shitty men does it take to get a woman as governor in New York, and why do state troopers always seem to be involved?
To answer that, start with the cynical founder of the Women’s Equality Party, Andrew Cuomo, who announced Tuesday that he will resign in 14 days from what might be the only job he’s ever wanted.
It’s a move he surely hopes will preclude an impeachment trial that could bar him from running again—and also possible criminal charges, after a damning report from Attorney General Letitia James backed up the accounts of 11 women, including numerous staffers, who say he harassed and even assaulted them.
Cuomo becomes the second consecutive elected governor of New York to resign after getting caught up in a scandal connected, directly or indirectly, to sex. He follows Eliot Spitzer, who also stepped down in part to avoid criminal charges, after it came out that he’d been sleeping with sex workers.
(Side note: While both Roger Stone and Eliot Spitzer promoted the mutually useful idea that the infamous Republican “ratfucker,” Stone, had brought down the supposed “Sheriff of Wall Street,” the dirty trickster who had a personal grudge against the Spitzer family in fact had nothing to do with that. Well, other than retconning himself into the story and fabricating the myth that Spitzer kept on black socks—an item Stone later handed out as trophies—while doing the deed.)
Spitzer, who’d been dogged as governor by a series of probes conducted by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo before the prostitution news forced him out, was replaced in 2008 by his lieutenant governor, David Paterson.
The new governor promptly gave a press conference, with his wife by his side, in which he admitted to sleeping with staffers and other women, but only because she’d slept around first.
Paterson shared that because he feared troopers—who Cuomo reported had been spying on the state senate leader on behalf of Spitzer (with one inspector, who’d formerly headed the governor’s personal detail, dying by suicide in the course of that investigation)—were going to expose his affairs or use their knowledge of them against him.
Later in Paterson’s term, he was forced to ask for an investigation by Cuomo into allegations that he’d used the state police to pressure a woman to rescind her claim that she’d been abused by a powerful aide of his. That’s part of what led Paterson to announce he would not run for a full term of his own, clearing the path for Cuomo to be elected governor (the old joke is that A.G. stands for “aspiring governor”) and Eric Schneiderman to be elected attorney general.
Schneiderman resigned in 2018, which helped him avoid criminal charges, after Ronan Farrow reported that he’d viciously abused multiple women he’d been involved with. James, then New York City’s public advocate, was elected to replace him later that year.
And now James’ report—her second damning report about Cuomo this year, following one in January about how his administration tried to keep coronavirus nursing-home deaths off the books, which remains the subject of an ongoing federal investigation—has opened up the path to power for Hochul.
Critically, James found an eleventh accuser, which meant Cuomo couldn't say her probe had only recycled old news by confirming the claims of the women who'd already come forward. The new accuser—a state trooper the governor met and took a shine to, and promptly had assigned to his protective detail, even though she lacked the three years on the job required for that role—testified that he proceeded to harass and touch her inappropriately while she was working. As it happens, that coerced "courtship" happened at the same time that the governor signed with great fanfare New York’s sweeping new anti-harassment law.
Thanks in no small part to James finding that trooper, New York will have its first governor since FDR nearly a century ago to come from north of Westchester in Hochul, a local pol who won a four-way special election in a Republican-leaning district including Buffalo to take the congressional seat vacated by Chris Lee in 2011. (Lee had resigned when Gawker caught him creeping on a woman online.)
She lost her seat after the district was redrawn the following year, but found a new political foothold when Cuomo added her to his ticket—replacing Bob Duffy—when he faced a primary challenge from Zephyr Teachout as he ran for a second term in 2014. That was the same year that Cuomo founded the Women’s Equality Party in a real-life twist on the Onion classic about a Man Finally Put In Charge Of Struggling Feminist Movement.
Hochul has spent the years since traveling the state, promoting Cuomo’s agenda and building her own political network, while her running mate has kept her at such arm’s length that, for instance, she isn’t even mentioned in the quickie book recycling his Emmy-winning virus briefings that obscured his own egregious pandemic failures.
Now, Hochul is about to be running the show. All it took to get one woman to run New York State for the next 16 months, after 244 years, was five shitty men.