Updated: Mar 10
It would seem that, when it comes to government work, there is no position more under fire than the state’s governors. And it’s not a partisan attack either. There are governors from both parties facing challenges to their office. And while most of the attacks are related to how each governor handled the pandemic response in their individual states, there are other issues facing these state leaders.
Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL)
There are many critics of Governor DeSantis’s response to the coronavirus. When he made the decision to relax restrictions during the 2020 spring break, it led to a predictably sharp rise in cases, not just in the state, but all around the nation, as students who flocked to Florida brought the virus back to their home state, causing a dramatic uptick in cases that is still ongoing.
And with spring break once again upon us, DeSantis is once again opening the state to student revelers in direct contradiction to CDC guidance. Even though vaccines are becoming more and more available, thanks largely to a coordinated effort by the Biden administration, experts are warning that relaxing restrictions could lead to a deadly fourth wave of the disease.
And that’s not the only controversy dogging DeSantis. He is facing criticism for hiding the actual number of COVID cases in his state and for giving access to the vaccine to wealthy donors before essential workers.
Despite facing these multiple controversies, DeSantis appears to be safe for the time being due to overwhelming support from his Republican supporters.
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Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA)
Like his Florida counterpart, Newsom is facing backlash for his response to the pandemic. Despite being the first state to go into lockdown, cases have continued to surge. Newsom faces additional criticism for attending a dinner party while his state was still under lockdown restrictions.
With the re-opening and shut down revolving-door policies that Newsom has enacted as cases fell then rose again, Republicans lawmakers have initiated a recall effort to have him removed from office. This largely Republican effort currently has 1.95 million signatures and is even gaining support among Democratic lawmakers.
So, unlike DeSantis, it would appear Newsom is facing a losing battle due to his pandemic response.
Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX)
The Texas governor is also facing criticism on multiple fronts. Even as President Biden is promising enough vaccines will be available by May, Abbott is determined to undermine these efforts by rescinding the statewide mask mandate and declaring businesses are free to reopen at 100 percent capacity. And while Abbott insists that Texans will use their common sense when it comes to the lifting of restrictions, and that businesses are free to set their own rules, there was an altercation with a Mexican restaurant that tried to enforce its mask mandate. People took to social media threatening to turn the restaurant into ICE and demanded to see employees’ Green Cards.
And when cases undoubtedly rise, as they surely will with abandoning guidelines for masks and social distancing, Abbott has a ready-made excuse. And it plays right up the Republican alley. He plans on blaming the potential increase on the easing of immigration restrictions under President Biden.
Abbott’s lifting of mask mandates in his state led other Republican governors to do the same in their states, threatening the progress we are starting to make to combat the virus.
But all of this is a distraction. It is aimed at drawing attention away from the other controversy; Abbott’s response to the power outage that left 4.5 million Texans in the dark in a rare cold snap that also left them without running water for weeks. The outage was blamed on Texas being disconnected from the national power grid in order to limit federal regulations. Despite this, it did not prevent the governor from requesting and accepting federal assistance.
And who does Abbott blame for his incompetence? Why, the Democrats of course! Abbott blamed windmills, while right wing media outlets twisted the facts by claiming the outage was what would occur “under the Green New Deal”.
Despite these issues, Abbott stands little chance of consequences because of his Republican support.
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY)
When the pandemic first hit and New York became the epicenter of the virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo was praised for handling of the crisis. His daily news briefings became “must see TV” as there was no direction from the White House. Cuomo’s actions early on undoubtably saved thousands of lives and his cool, calm demeanor in the face of calamity was the necessary salve that the nation needed at it came to grips with the magnitude of the pandemic.
Fast forward to the past few weeks. It has been revealed that his office hid the details of the number of COVID deaths in nursing homes throughout the state. Worse yet, it has been alleged that these same nursing homes were being forced to take patients who had coronavirus to alleviate overcrowding in hospitals, which increased the number of nursing home fatalities.
Following on the heels of these revelations, several women have come forward, accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment. The governor apologized for what he termed as “misunderstandings” and even requested the State Attorney General, Letitia James, launch her own independent investigation.
As more women come forward, there are calls from both sides of the aisle for Cuomo to resign. They are demanding the accountability that Republicans refused to insist when it came to Donald Trump. Cuomo is insisting he will not resign. Echoing the defense of Republicans from Trump’s first impeachment trial, he has asserted that he was elected by the people of New York and politicians do not have the right to remove him.
Nonetheless, many see the handwriting on the wall. Even if Cuomo refuses to leave office willingly, his political career, and especially his once hinted presidential aspirations, are likely over.
If there seems to be a contradiction in the way the two parties are approaching their attempts to hold their governors accountable, you would be correct in this assumption. Where Democrats are seeking to hold their governors accountable, Republicans are using the tried and true methods that led Donald Trump to the White House. They deflect, deny and delay the issues, knowing that another crisis will surely arise that will make the public forget.
We need to remember come the next Election Day and hold these leaders, of both parties, accountable.