Fulton and Montgomery Dems urge Cuomo to resign

FILE – In this June 23, 2021 file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in New York. Eleven women have described to investigators hired by the New York attorney general’s office how Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment of them made them feel. Cuomo has denied that he sexual harassed or inappropriately touched anyone. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

On Saturday, 51 county-level Democratic Party committees in New York state — including the Democratic committees in Fulton and Montgomery counties — joined together in a joint statement calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign in the wake of the state attorney general’s investigation that said at least 11 women have accused him of sexually harassing behavior.

“We thank him for his years of service to the great state of New York, which we all know he holds dear, but demand that he immediately step down,” reads the joint statement. “It’s time to move on.”

Montgomery County Democratic Committee Chairman Terry Bieniek was among the 51 county Democratic committee leaders who co-signed the statement.

“I believe Governor Cuomo has done some great things for the state and the Democratic Party, but his ability to lead has been tarnished by his actions,” Bieniek said in an additional statement provided for this story. “Because of this I believe he should resign immediately. I am confident [Lt. Gov.] Kathy Hochul will be excellent as our new governor.”

All of these county Democratic committee chairs in the greater Capital Region in addition to Bieniek signed the joint statement: Jake Crawford [Albany], Ed Jasewicz [Fulton], Michael Monescalchi [Rensselaer], Todd Kerner [Saratoga], Joe Landry [Schenectady] and Lynne Boecher [Warren].

The Schoharie County Democratic Committee was one of 11 county Democratic Party committees that did not sign-on to the statement demanding Cuomo’s resignation as of Sunday. The other county Democratic committees not included in the statement are: Allegany, Cayuga, Franklin, Lewis, Nassau, Niagara, Onondaga, Otsego, Queens and Schuyler.

Fulton County

Fulton County Democratic Election Commissioner Jerry Ryan — also a member of the Fulton County Democratic Committee — said 21 out of the 26 members of the Fulton County Democratic Committee voted via email Wednesday to ask Cuomo to resign, with the other five members not responding to the email vote. He said none of the committee members defended Cuomo.

“We had thought waiting for the attorney general’s report was the most important thing for all of us to do, and we did that, but when that came out it kind of turned the tide,” he said. “From my perspective it would really be a serious mistake for the governor to stay in office, but also to run for reelection. I think it would be very detrimental to the Democratic Party in the state.”

In a news release, Fulton County Democratic Chairman Ed Jasewicz said the committee members expressed mutual outrage about the governor’s behavior as reported in New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ report released Aug. 3.

James’ report alleged from 2013 through 2020 Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 different women with alleged behavior that included: unwanted and inappropriate touching, groping, kissing, hugging, and comments that accusers called “deeply Humiliating”, “uncomfortable”, “offensive” or “inappropriate.” The report alleged Cuomo’s administration had created a hostile work environment in the executive chamber “rife with fear and intimidation.”

Cuomo has so far refused to resign, and he and his lawyers have denied some of the accusations outright and have said some of his words or actions in some of the alleged scenarios may have been misinterpreted.

Ryan said the members of the Fulton County Democratic Committee had wanted to hold “their powder dry” with respect to the allegations against Cuomo until the James’ report made it clear how many accusers have made allegations against him.

“Where there’s this much smoke, there’s usually fire,” Ryan said. “We just want a standard bearer to run for governor next time who is a credible candidate who isn’t involved in any of these kinds of accusations. I don’t know whether [Lt. Gov.] Kathy Hochul will run for election or not, if she becomes governor if the governor resigns or is impeached, but she’d be a very good candidate.”

Ryan said Gloversville City Democratic Committee Chairwoman Robin Wentworth was among the 21 Fulton County Democratic Committee members who voted to call for Cuomo’s resignation.

Wentworth in March, after some of Cuomo’s accusers had come forward, had posted a statement on social media describing an encounter she had with Cuomo in 2010 when he visited the Johnstown-Gloversville Holiday Inn when he was campaigning for his first term as governor.

“I was asked to be part of the group to greet him and I was asked to introduce him before he spoke to the crowd,” Wentworth wrote in her written social statement. “We were put in an office at the Holiday Inn and briefed by his staff prior to his arrival and then the group met with him before he spoke to the crowd. I remember upon being introduced to him I reached out my hand to shake his hand and he leaned in and asked if it was okay to kiss my cheek (which took me completely by surprise). I do believe I said yes because I remember him holding my hand and kissing my cheek.”

Wentworth would not agree to a telephone interview about the social media post in March and deleted the post, but did answer a few questions about it via a social media messenger program. She said she did not believe her interaction with Cuomo had been motivated by anything sexual, but she said the allegations of Cuomo’s accusers should be taken seriously.

“I believe it was simply [a] greeting on his part toward me. For all I know he may have greeted others in the same manner that night,” she wrote in a message. “Believe me, if I felt it were in any way of sexual nature I would be speaking with the Attorney General. I take these things very seriously and believe they need to be properly addressed.”

Wentworth did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.

By Paul Wager