Cuomo could have run again for NY governor, but declined for family reasons, former top aide writes

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, discussed running to reclaim the office in 2022 but decided against it because he didn't want to subject his daughters to another campaign, one of his top aides says in a book being released Tuesday.

“We had a vendor lined up to print petitions and had assembled a volunteer army and a paid canvass operation that was set to go,” the Democrat's former chief aide, Melissa DeRosa, writes in her political memoir, “What’s Left Unsaid: My Life at the Center of Power, Politics and Crisis.”

Such a run would have pitted Cuomo against his successor and former lieutenant governor, fellow Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul.

DeRosa said Cuomo “could not stomach” how state government was being run after his resignation. But despite support from relatives and aides willing to come out with “guns blazing,” she wrote, Cuomo considered how a run would impact his three daughters, who had clearly “had enough of the press and the ugly politics.”

“The prospect of reliving that trauma that soon was too much to bear," DeRosa said.

Hochul wound up winning the election, defeating Republican Lee Zeldin.

DeRosa was known for appearing at the governor’s side during his daily, televised COVID-19 pandemic briefings and became one of Cuomo's most vocal defenders during the sexual harassment scandal that forced him out of office in August 2021.

She defends him and the administration in the book, too, questioning the credibility of some of the accusations, saying that “everyday interactions were being weaponized” and claiming some of the attacks on him were politically motivated.

DeRosa is particularly critical of state Attorney General Letitia James, the Democrat who released a report, crafted by outside lawyers, which concluded Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo has denied those allegations. In one passage, DeRosa claimed James initially tried to reassure her about the investigation, saying people had described a key accuser as “not credible.”

A spokesperson for James, Gary Ginsburg, said in an email Monday that DeRosa “has a well-earned reputation for dishonesty.”

“Let’s remember this is the very person who lied about the number of people who died in nursing homes during the pandemic,” Ginsburg said, referring to the Cuomo administration's incomplete accounting of deaths at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

DeRosa's book provides insider takes on Cuomo’s relationships with other figures.

According to DeRosa:

— Former CNN President Jeff Zucker and his longtime aide Allison Gollust pressured Cuomo to appear on his younger brother Chris’s primetime show. The brotherly banter, laced with friendly trash talk, was a popular feature during the grimmest days of the pandemic, despite criticism that it represented a journalistic conflict of interest.

— Cuomo had a complicated, wary relationship with then-President Donald Trump. DeRosa said she would sometimes try to lobby the administration through Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Sometimes those exchanges would get testy. Early in the pandemic when much of the economy was still shut down, DeRosa spoke to Kushner in hopes the president would soften his rhetoric about reopening. Kushner responded that Florida was open and that the death rate there was lower at the time “even without the shutdowns. Did you know that, too?”

— Hochul was told in January 2021 that she would be off the ticket the next year as Cuomo's lieutenant governor. She agreed to go, DeRosa said, provided they find her a job in the federal government, preferably as ambassador to Canada. They were finalizing a position in the Commerce Department when the sexual harassment allegations surfaced. DeRosa dismissed Hochul as someone unprepared for the job.

Asked to comment on what DeRosa wrote, Hochul spokesperson Anthony Hogrebe emailed that the "State of New York has moved on, and we hope she is able to find a way to move on as well.”

Cuomo’s spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi, said of the book “we’re not disputing any of this but have no additional comment.”