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Sexual harassment scandal forces New York's Andrew Cuomo to resign

Facing impeachment, lacking allies, and left with no credible options, the New York Democrat announced he's calling it quits.

It was last Wednesday when New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) unveiled the findings of a months-long investigation into harassment allegations surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). As we discussed soon after, the conclusions were brutal: investigators determined that the governor sexually harassed 11 women, and Cuomo and his team retaliated against a former employee for coming forward.

The political blowback was as fierce as it was overwhelming: U.S. House Democrats from New York called for the governor to resign. So did U.S. Senate Democrats. And President Biden. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And Democratic governors from neighboring states. And New York's Democratic state legislators. And even the chair of the state Democratic Party.

If Cuomo believed the controversy would die down and he might still find a way to survive politically, it quickly became obvious that such an idea was wishful thinking. Today, facing impeachment, lacking allies, and left with no credible options, the New York Democrat announced he's calling it quits.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he will resign after a withering report from the state's attorney general documented multiple accusations of sexual harassment against women. The decision heads off his almost certain impeachment and conviction in the state Legislature.

In two weeks, incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) will succeed Cuomo and become the first woman to serve as New York's governor.

Coincidentally, this will be the second time in a decade she'll succeed an incumbent who was forced to resign amid scandal: Ten years ago, a sex scandal forced out then-Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.), and Hochul unexpectedly won the special election to fill his vacancy. (She was eventually succeeded in Congress by Republican Chris Collins, who later went to prison for securities fraud.)

In 2014, the congresswoman was elected lieutenant governor, and in two weeks, she'll be governor.

For Cuomo, it's an extraordinary fall from grace. It was just last year when Donald Trump was reportedly convinced that Democrats would remove Joe Biden from the party's presidential ticket and replace him with the popular New York governor with the strong national profile.

Looking ahead, the question wasn't whether Cuomo would win a fourth term in 2022, it was how big a margin would he win by.

And then the scandals began. First, there were difficult questions about whether Cuomo's administration deliberately underreported coronavirus nursing-home deaths and hid data from state lawmakers. Then, the serious allegations of misconduct toward women rocked Albany, and ultimately brought down a powerful governor.

I've seen some suggestions that these developments represent bad news for the Democratic Party, and at a superficial level, the claim may appear to make sense. After all, Andrew Cuomo has been a prominent voice in Democratic politics in recent years, and now a controversy is forcing him from office.

But there's another way of looking at the same story: while Republicans stood by their allies who faced related accusations -- a certain former one-term president comes to mind -- the Cuomo story puts his party in a qualitatively different light.

Democrats didn't make excuses for Cuomo, or play "what about" games. They didn't try to change the subject or look the other way. Instead, Democrats saw one of their own who engaged in conduct they deemed unacceptable. They then called for his resignation and got exactly the outcome they sought.

As we recently discussed, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared on Fox News in March, when he encouraged Democrats to "follow the Republican model" in response to the allegations surrounding Cuomo.

What the South Carolina senator failed to acknowledge was the fact that a great many women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct and assault. Under "the Republican model," GOP officials spent four years expressing indifference to the allegations.

Thankfully, Democrats chose a different model in response to the Cuomo scandal.