What happens if Cuomo resigns?

If Cuomo resigned and moved to Washington he would be one of many governors to have done so.
If Cuomo resigned and moved to Washington he would be one of many governors to have done so.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
If Cuomo resigned and moved to Washington he would be one of many governors to have done so.

What happens if Cuomo resigns?

He wouldn’t be the only New York governor to relocate to Washington.
April 19, 2020

In the past few weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been widely hailed by the national media as a strong and pragmatic leader during the coronavirus outbreak. Some have even pegged him as a potential addition to Joe Biden’s administration, should the former vice president win in November. Time and again, however, Cuomo has insisted that behind his response to the pandemic lies no political agenda. During his morning press conference on April 11, he tried to put the rumors to rest: “I’m not running for president. I’m not running for vice president. I’m not running anywhere. I’m not going to Washington. I’m staying right here.”

Biden is the only remaining Democratic presidential candidate after U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race on April 8. While Cuomo has referred to Biden as a personal friend and opened up his fundraising network to Biden in April 2019, he hasn’t issued an official endorsement.

But, what would happen to New York if Cuomo did assume a position in Biden’s Cabinet? To put it simply, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would be sworn in as the new governor and finish Cuomo’s term until the next scheduled gubernatorial election in 2022. This procedure isn’t unprecedented or unusual – but it wasn’t always this way. Here are all the times when lieutenant governors have stepped in to carry out a gubernatorial term in New York.

Gov. Daniel Tompkins

Replaced by Lt. Gov. John Tayler

In February 1817, Lt. Gov. John Tayler assumed the governorship when Gov. Daniel Tompkins resigned after being elected vice president alongside President James Monroe. Tayler was New York’s sixth governor, but only served for four months and was replaced by DeWitt Clinton in a special election. He continued to serve as Clinton’s lieutenant governor through the end of 1822.

Gov. DeWitt Clinton 

Replaced by Lt. Gov. Nathaniel Pitcher

In 1826, Nathaniel Pitcher, then a congressman, was elected lieutenant governor of New York. But halfway through his term, he took over as governor because Gov. DeWitt Clinton died in February 1828. Pitcher served the remainder of the term and was replaced by Martin Van Buren the following year.

Gov. Martin Van Buren 

Replaced by Lt. Gov. Enos T. Throop

In 1828, Enos T. Throop joined fellow Democratic-Republican gubernatorial candidate Martin Van Buren’s ticket as lieutenant governor. But Van Buren resigned only two months into his term to become U.S. secretary of state. Throop took over as governor until he was elected to his own term in 1830. He never sought another term.

Gov. Grover Cleveland 

Replaced by Lt. Gov. David B. Hill

After Gov. Grover Cleveland was elected president in 1884, former assemblyman and then-Lt. Gov. David B. Hill became governor. He was elected to a full term in November 1885 and was reelected to a second full term as governor in 1888.

Gov. Charles Evans Hughes 

Replaced by Lt. Gov. Horace White

In 1908 election, Horace White became lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket with Gov. Charles Evans Hughes. When Hughes resigned in October 1910 to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, White took over as governor until the end of the year. At the end of his term, White retired from public service to work at his Syracuse legal practice.

Gov. Herbert Lehman 

Replaced by Lt. Gov. Charles Poletti

Charles Poletti, who served as the lieutenant governor of New York from 1939 to 1942, became the first Italian American governor in U.S. history after then-Gov. Herbert Lehman went to work for the U.S. Department of State. Poletti was only governor for one month before serving in World War II, first as special assistant to the secretary of war and then as a civil affairs officer in the Army.

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller 

Replaced by Lt. Gov. Malcolm Wilson

Nelson Rockefeller and Malcolm Wilson were a powerful political duo even before they ran on a joint ticket as governor and lieutenant governor in 1958. The Rockefeller-Wilson ticket was reelected three times and Wilson served as lieutenant governor for nearly 15 years. But, after Rockefeller resigned as governor in 1973, Wilson assumed the governorship. He ran for reelection in 1974, but lost to Hugh Carey.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer 

Replaced by Lt. Gov. David Paterson

DavidPaterson had held the title of lieutenant governor for only a little more than a year when Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal in March 2008. Paterson became New York’s first black governor and served out the rest of Spitzer’s term, after which Andrew Cuomo was elected governor.

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Jana Cholakovska
is an editorial intern at City & State.
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