“We’re Talking About Public Trust in the Most Powerful Person in the State”: Maya Wiley Doesn’t Have Time for Andrew Cuomo’s Bullshit


Earlier this year, hundreds of New Yorkers were asked their thoughts about elected officials and for Mayor Bill de Blasio the results were just about as bad they come. Not only did a mere 28% of people approve of his performance, but he received a worse score than Donald Trump, who is famously reviled in his ex-home state. In other words, New York is ready for a new mayor, and fast. While that person will not take over from de Blasio until January 2022, they will almost certainly be chosen in just over three months, when the Democratic primaries take place.

One of the people vying for the gig is Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney, social justice advocate, New School professor, former MSNBC contributor, and City Hall veteran. While Wiley came in third among Democrats in a poll released on Monday, behind onetime presidential hopeful Andrew Yang and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, last month she scored a coveted endorsement from Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, the city’s largest labor union, which represents more than 200,000 health care workers. Meanwhile, some of her allies believe that Yang’s lead is largely based on name recognition and will fade over time, making way for the city’s first Black female mayor after 109 men. (As one Wiley ally told my colleague Chris Smith last month, “Especially in a Democratic primary, most of the voters are women, and damn near a plurality are women of color. I’d rather look like Maya than look like any of the men.”)

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On Monday, Wiley sat down with the Hive to chat about everything from cracking down on the New York City Police Department to why Andrew Cuomo needs to box up his belongings and get the hell out of Albany.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.


Vanity Fair: Based on the allegations of sexual harassment against him, you’ve said that Governor Andrew Cuomo should resign, as has Carlos Menchaca. On Sunday night, Scott Stringer said the same. But the majority of the men running for mayor are reserving calls for resignation. What do you make of that?

Maya Wiley: Do you know how many women in a survey reported experiences of sexual harassment on the job? Eighty percent. It is so common. It’s normalized. And it’s an abuse of power. Anyone asking the public to lend them the public’s power has an obligation to say that someone who abuses it should step aside. I agree that there has to be sufficient reason to believe [the accusations are] true. In this case, we have it. I’m not talking about in the sense of criminal prosecution. I’m not talking about in the sense of a civil lawsuit. That is for investigators and courts to decide. We’re talking about the public trust in the most powerful person in the state.

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I think women understand and experience what it means to have power abused where they are concerned. And I think we’ve seen it on display with sufficient, credible, and corroborating evidence. I’m saddened that it has taken our elected leaders in the state Senate [calling for Cuomo’s resignation] to get candidates, who are far too often men, to come out and say the same thing.

Do you think the male candidates saying we need an investigation first don’t get it because they’re men?

I can’t speak to that. And I certainly am aware that there are women who disagree with a call for Governor Cuomo to resign. I think that’s a societal issue—our tolerance of abusive behavior. For me the call to leadership was about setting a higher bar. For me, this is a campaign that should be won by being our authentic selves, being clear on our principles, and being clear about the level of responsibility and obligation that the job requires. I think it’s a higher bar than what we have seen in this country, and unfortunately right now in our state.

If the governor serves out the rest of his third term and possibly wins a fourth, are you concerned about working with him? Obviously a huge part of being mayor is being able to get money out of Albany. Even if the guy in Albany is an asshole.

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I will work with the governor no matter who the governor is. And I will always be Maya Wiley when I do it. That means I will call it as I see it. Too often we forget our principles in order to hold onto power; I will always put principles first, not my own power.

I think that the recognition [needs to be] that the power of the office isn’t just the power of the office—the power of the office is the power of the partnerships. And the partnerships are with the people and with those elected to serve in Albany. We have a very powerful delegation to Albany, including our assembly leader, majority leader, and our State Senator Mike Gianaris, who is a supporter of mine and a senior leader in the state house. These are powerful positions. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the state Senate majority leader, is just in Westchester. She’s very much a neighbor with lots of shared interests.

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