Connecticut to New York: Been There, Done That

Connecticut by the Numbers
Connecticut 2004 has remarkable similarities to New York 2021.Official photos

You can’t blame some in Connecticut for thinking “been there, done that” as neighboring New York goes down the path of gubernatorial succession thought unlikely – even impossible – only months prior.

In Connecticut, it was also summertime when a once-popular third term Governor stepped in front of a television camera to announce he would be resigning the office within days, to be succeeded by a female Lieutenant Governor that few in the public could name and most knew little about.

John Rowland had been elected in 1994, 1998 and 2002. Describing is 2002 victory, The New York Times described Rowland as “Connecticut's unbeaten and perhaps unbeatable governor… (who has) built a formidable reputation among a clear majority of voters.” Cook Political Report, a bipartisan group in Washington, added ''No one's ever really laid a glove on the guy. He's just got great political skills, and he gives the perception that he's a guy in charge.''

By the end of June 2004, however, he was embroiled in controversy of his own making, the acceptance of gifts and favors, which became the subject of a federal investigation and a state legislative impeachment inquiry.

He announced in a live, televised address on June 21, 2004 from the Executive Residence that he would resign effective July 1, to be succeeded by Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell. As the Hartford Courant reported, “Rowland's two daughters sat in the front row. At one point in his speech, he looked at them.”

Cuomo, facing very different allegations, address his three daughters directly, stating “"Your dad made mistakes, and he apologized, and he learned from it, and that's what life is all about."

Rowland’s remarks lasted less than six minutes; Cuomo’s just over 20 minutes. Both had national aspirations and, to varying degrees, profiles. In early 1999 the Hartford Courant reported on “revived talk by his home-state cheerleaders about a possible spot for him on the GOP's national 2000 ticket or a Cabinet post in a GOP administration.” Cuomo was widely lauded for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic a year ago, particularly his daily news conferences that were often telecast nationwide as well as across New York.

Cuomo’s decision to resign, coming just days after an investigative report issued by the New York Attorney General alleged sexual harassment by Cuomo of current and former employees, which Cuomo has steadfastly denied. Pressure to resign had coalesces quickly, and was nearly unanimous among elected officials in New York and Washington, D.C.

New York’s Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochel, will become New York’s first female Governor. She has previously served as a member of Congress, and is a long-time resident of the Buffalo region in Western New York, joining Cuomo’s ticket in 2014. Lieutentant Governor Rell, nearly three decades ago, had been a member of the state legislature from Brookfield in Western Connecticut before being tapped as Rowland’s running mate in 1994. She was Connecticut’s second female Governor; the state’s voters elected Ella Grasso to two terms in the 1970’s.

Upon taking the oath of office on July 1, 2004, the newly sworn-in Connecticut Governor described the circumstances during her inaugural address:

“Few could have accurately predicted the incredible, seemingly unrelenting, series of events that have led to today's actions. It has been a time of profound disappointment and disillusionment. It has been a moment in history that we never thought we would see, and fervently hope that we never see again.”

Rell served as Connecticut’s Governor through January 2011, having been elected to a full term in her own right in 2006. New York’s next gubernatorial election is in 2022.

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