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Cuomo defiant as top New York lawmakers call on him to quit

NEW YORK — The two top Democrats in New York’s legislature withdrew their support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment and undercounting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the first senior Democrat in the state to say the three-term governor should resign. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie stopped short of demanding that Cuomo quit, but said in a statement that “it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.”

On Saturday, two more women who worked for Cuomo publicly accused him of inappropriate behavior, on the heels of other allegations in recent weeks.

“Every day there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.”

Her public push for his resignation came shortly after a Sunday press conference where Cuomo said it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down.

“There is no way I resign,” Cuomo told reporters.

“They don’t override the people’s will, they don’t get to override elections,” he said. “I was elected by the people of New York state. I wasn’t elected by politicians.”

In a brief phone conversation Sunday prior to the press conference, Cuomo told Stewart-Cousins he wouldn’t quit and they would have to impeach him if they wanted him out of office, according to a person who was briefed by someone on the call. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the call was intended to be private.

Cuomo said the next six months will determine how successfully New York emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m not going to be distracted because there is too much to do for the people,” he said, noting that the state must pass a budget within three weeks and administer 15 million more COVID-19 vaccines.

Support for Cuomo has eroded with surprising speed as he’s faced twin scandals, one over his treatment of women in the workplace, and a second over his administration’s months-long refusal to release complete statistics on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

Some lawmakers have been infuriated by revelations that Cuomo’s administration delayed releasing some data about deaths of nursing home patients in hospitals, at least partly because of concerns it could be used against them by President Donald Trump’s administration.

Several women have publicly told of feeling sexually harassed, or at least made to feel demeaned and uncomfortable. The state’s attorney general is investigating. Cuomo has urged people to wait for that investigation to conclude before they judge him.

Others who have called for Cuomo’s resignation include U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Long Island Democrat.

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