Mounting sexual harassment allegations and other claims of inappropriate behavior are increasing the likelihood that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will get impeached if he continues to ignore calls for his resignation.
That scenario could put the three-term Democratic governor on trial for his political life — and create a sordid spectacle the likes of which New York has never seen, with multiple accusers potentially offering sworn testimony about unwanted kisses and creepy come-ons.
Here’s how the impeachment process works in the Empire State:
Under Article XIII, Section 5 of the New York Constitution, any public officer is subject to removal for “misconduct or malversation in office,” with the latter term referring to corruption, extortion and other punishable acts. The constitution also gives the 150-member state Assembly the power to impeach officials by the vote of a simple majority, or 76 lawmakers. The Assembly is composed of 106 Democrats, 43 Republicans and one independent.
Suspension from office
Should Cuomo be impeached, two-term Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would immediately become acting governor pending the outcome of his trial. Hochul, a conservative Democrat who served one term as a US representative from outside Buffalo, has been first in line to succeed Cuomo since his second term. Cuomo tapped Hochul as his running mate to replace former Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, a former Rochester mayor and police chief who didn’t seek re-election in 2014 and now heads the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.
Impeachment trials are usually conducted by the 63-member state Senate and the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, although in the case of a governor’s trial, neither the lieutenant governor nor the Senate majority leader — Yonkers Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who on Sunday called on Cuomo to resign — can take part. Before the trial starts, the state constitution says that “the members of the court shall take an oath or affirmation truly and impartially to try the impeachment according to the evidence.” The Senate is composed of 43 Democrats and 20 Republicans, and every judge on the Court of Appeals was nominated by Cuomo.
Verdict and sentence
Conviction at an impeachment trial requires “the concurrence of two-thirds of the members present” and punishment is limited to removal from office and the added possibility of being disqualified from holding any other “public office of honor trust or profit” in New York. If Cuomo were impeached and convicted, Hochul would serve out the remainder of his term, which expires at the end of next year.
Has it ever happened before?
Only one New York governor — William “Plain Bill” Sulzer, a Democratic former state senator and member of Congress — has been impeached. It came just six months after he was elected in 1912 and turned on the city’s corrupt Tammany Hall political machine, which had helped him win. Sulzer was accused of misusing campaign funds and convicted on Oct. 17, 1913. Despite being ousted, he was elected to the state’s then-House of Representatives as an independent just days later. He ran again for governor the following year but lost in a landslide and withdrew from politics before dying in 1941.