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Local Officials Ready to Move On and Begin Work With Hochul

New York officials across the state are eager to begin their work with Kathy Hochul once Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns in two weeks in the wake of a series of sexual harassment allegations.

(TNS) — Local elected officials said they are eager to move forward and work with New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul following Tuesday's announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that he would be resigning and leaving office in 14 days.

State Sen. Dan Stec., R- Queensbury, said Cuomo's decision to step down does not absolve him from responsibility for his actions, but it allows the state to move on.

"This had nothing to do with politics as the governor claims," Stec said in a news release. "The governor and his team covered up nursing home deaths, used government staff to help him write a $5 million book, and created a toxic work environment. He used the power of his position to intimidate and harass 11 women who fortunately and courageously stepped forward and stood up to one of our nation's most powerful politicians."

Stec added that the state needs to recover from the social and economic impact of COVID and Cuomo's resignation allows that to be the focus.

Stec said in a follow-up interview that Cuomo should have resigned months ago. Also, people are not going to be satisfied that the governor's resignation centered around the sexual harassment issues and not the other issues like the nursing home deaths.

As for what happens in the impeachment investigation, Stec said he is not sure whether legally the Assembly can impeach somebody that resigned.

"I haven't gotten a definitive answer from counsel," he said.

Stec said some legislators may still want to proceed with the process, so the Senate can vote to bar Cuomo from seeking public office ever again.

Stec said he did not know why Cuomo had to give two weeks' notice in order to provide a transition.

"If he got hit by a bus. the lieutenant governor would step forward and become the governor," he said.

Stec said he looked forward to working with Hochul. She said she can provide a different perspective, since the top leaders have all been from downstate. He is glad the state is moving forward.

"I'm hopeful that we'll get back to something that looks more like governance and less like political damage control," he said.

Assemblyman Matt Simpson, R- Horicon, said Cuomo did the best thing for New York by stepping down and letting Hochul take over.

"I'm looking forward to working with her and doing my part in moving New York state forward," he said.

As for what happens next, Simpson said the Assembly Judiciary Committee is continuing its investigation.

Cuomo is the second governor to resign in the last 15 years. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008, following a prostitution scandal. Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stepped down in 2018, following allegations of violence against women.

When asked about what the state could do to fight corruption, Simpson said more transparency is needed.

"I think one party control is an issue. There's unchecked power there," he said.

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D- Round Lake, said she is relieved the state is going to be able to close this "shameful" chapter in its history.

"When you read the stories of each of these 11 women, the pattern of behavior is so horrifying and egregious that it was very clear to me that he was not fit to lead the state. I think it is a good thing that he's made the right decision to resign and we can now move beyond this," she said.

She said she is in awe of the women who came forward and hopes this announcement gives them a sense of peace.

Woerner said she hopes the scandal will teach elected officials no one is above the law and the state will get a new generation of leadership, committed to doing the people's work and only the people's work.

Sen. Daphne Jordan, R- Halfmoon, said Cuomo has revealed himself as a "bully, thug, creep and coward." She called for investigations into the sexual harassment allegations and nursing home deaths to continue.

Jordan offered Hochul her best wishes and prayers.

Rachel Seeber, chairwoman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, issued a statement saying that the board is eager to work with Hochul.

"We are excited to continue our partnership with our New York State leaders, and eagerly await the leadership and new initiatives that our first woman serving the people of New York as governor will bring not only to Albany, but to the Adirondacks and to all New Yorkers in the months to come," Seeber said.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R- Schuylerville, continued her call for Cuomo to be arrested and prosecuted for sexual harassment, assault and sexual abuse. She said Cuomo should be charged for the state's under-reporting of deaths of nursing home residents and work done by state employees on his COVID book.

"There are multiple federal and state laws that the governor and his staff have broken, and they need to be held accountable. Every New Yorker must know that there is equal justice under the law — no matter if you are the most powerful figure in New York or an everyday New Yorker.

"The systemic culture of criminal corruption, political vengeance, and illegal retaliation under Andrew Cuomo was brushed under the rug for years by Democrats, the media, and the cesspool of Albany. It is a disgraceful chapter in New York's history," she said.

Stefanik also called on Hochul to "clean house" and purge the government of Cuomo's appointees.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D- N.Y., issued a statement that commended the women who "stepped forward and courageously told their stories."

"There is no place for sexual harassment, and today's announcement by Governor Cuomo to resign was the right decision for the good of the people of New York. I have full confidence that Lt. Governor Hochul will establish a professional and capable administration," he said.

Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is runniong for the Republican nomination for governor, issued a statement saying Cuomo should be held accountable for his actions, even after leaving office.

"From his deadly nursing home order and coverup, to his $5.1 million self-congratulatory book deal and serial harassment and abuse of others, he's been unfit to continue serving for a long period of time," he said in a news release.

Zeldin also blasted Hochul, saying she "empowered this disgusting behavior while Andrew Cuomo cultivated this toxic culture, leaving a trail of victims in its wake."

In his remarks, Cuomo denied harassing women but apologized to women who were offended when he hugged them or put his arm around them or called them "honey" or "darling"

"I take full responsibility for my actions. I have been too familiar with people. My sense of humor can be insensitive and off-putting. I do hug and kiss people casually, women and men. I have done it all of my life," he said.

He also apologized to a female state trooper whom he had sought for his personal detail in what he says was an effort to increase diversity. Cuomo apologized for jokes he made about her upcoming wedding.

He also said he did not intend anything sexual by pats he often gives his security officers when he walks past them. He said he does it as a gesture of appreciation.

Cuomo said the politics has become very heated and there are several motives at play. He thanked the women for coming forward with their stories, and said they taught him a lesson.

"Personal boundaries must be protected," he said.

Cuomo said he would have liked to communicate his side of the story and defend himself, but said impeachment would consume government.

He called Hochul "smart and competent" and vowed there would be a seamless transition.

Cuomo concluded by saying he is proud New York has become the progressive capital of the nation with initiatives like legalized same-sex marriage and tough gun laws and is proud of the way New Yorkers weathered natural disasters and the pandemic.

Cuomo said it has been the honor of his life to serve as governor.

He thanked Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for their leadership and thanked his daughters.

"I want them to know from the bottom of my heart that I never did, and I never would intentionally disrespect a woman or treat any woman differently than I would want them treated. And that is the God's honest truth. Your dad made mistakes and he apologized and he learned from it and that's what life is all about," he said.

(c)2021 The Post Star (Glens Falls, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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