Officials breathe sigh of relief after Spitzer resigns

Politicians from both parties reacted with relief Wednesday to Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s announcement tha
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Spitzer resignation

  • To watch Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s announcement of his resignation, click here.
  • To view Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s resignation letter, click here.
  • To watch state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s statement, click here.
  • For an interactive presentation on the scandal that led to the resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, click here.
  • Politicians from both parties reacted with relief Wednesday to Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s announcement that he would resign.

    Since news of Spitzer’s involvement in a prostitution scandal broke Monday afternoon, there have been widespread expressions of sympathy and offers of prayers for his family. But there was very little real support for Spitzer, even from those who had not been calling for his resignation. There was, by contrast, bipartisan willingness to welcome his successor, David Paterson, the current lieutenant governor.

    “I think everybody’s sad,” said Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Albany. “Everybody had such high expectations of this governor. … We will never know what might have been.”

    Breslin expressed happiness about his friend Paterson, a former Senate Democratic leader, becoming governor next week, and said he does not expect the Spitzer scandal to derail the Democrats’ plan to win the Senate this November.

    Assemblyman Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, was a harsher judge of the Democratic governor. He said Spitzer was “the worst governor in New York state history,” who engaged in harsh rhetoric and name calling, and “didn’t address the needs of upstate New York.”

    McDonald, like most other observers from both parties, said he had more confidence in Paterson. McDonald said Paterson has the legislative experience and knowledge of the state to do a good job, and lacks Spitzer’s personality flaws. “The guy’s a regular person,” the assemblyman said.

    “Spitzer talked a good game but his actions were the opposite,” said Assemblyman Jack McEneny, D-Albany, referring to the governor’s position on campaign finance reform and his methods of funding his own campaigns. McEneny also said he objected to the governor’s self-imposed rules barring fundraisers in Albany, which damaged the local economy.

    As for the prospects of future reform, McEneny said everyone’s immediate priority has to be passing a state budget, which is due April 1.

    The budget also was listed as top priority by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, who said the state faces “a fiscal crisis,” and by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan. They said they were looking forward to working with Paterson. Silver said he talked with Spitzer several times since the scandal broke, but declined to say whether he had urged him to resign. Bruno said he had not talked with Spitzer.

    Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, who had threatened to try to impeach Spitzer if he didn’t resign, issued a statement lavishly praising Paterson, and vowing bipartisan cooperation with him. Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, also praised Paterson as “a very approachable, bright gentleman” who is less aggressively partisan than Spitzer.

    Each chamber passed one-house budgets Wednesday, with the Assembly’s including a temporary income-tax increase on people making $1 million and more per year. Spitzer and the Republicans had opposed that proposed tax hike. How Paterson will react is unclear. His first news conference since the scandal broke is scheduled for 2 p.m. today. Spitzer’s resignation becomes effective at noon Monday.

    Silver cited workers’ compensation reform as the most significant achievement of Spitzer’s tenure, and, when pressed for others, mentioned ethics reform and budget reform — all of which were passed early last year.

    Reforming Albany’s political culture and invigorating the upstate economy were two of Spitzer’s key election pledges in 2006, when he was elected with 69 percent of the vote.

    Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director for the League of Women Voters, and Russ Haven, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, acknowledged that the ethics reform bill had big flaws and did not address oversight of the Legislature. “That was off the table,” Bartoletti said. Haven said there needs to be more disclosure about the private incomes of legislative leaders. Nevertheless, they defended the ethics bill as a step in the right direction.

    The budget process continues to be criticized by many — especially minority party members — as secretive and overly controlled by legislative leaders, although Bartoletti defended the way the reform is working.

    When he appeared at the news conference last year to announce agreement on the ethics bill, Spitzer said and repeated that the legislative leaders are required to make public disclosures about how much outside income they receive, which was an inaccurate statement. That was the same day he described himself as a steamroller, qualifying the description with an adverbial obscenity, as he sought to persuade Tedisco to support the bill, even though the minority leader did not have input into drafting it. Also that day, Jan. 24, Spitzer’s communications director, Darren Dopp, said: “There’s an idealistic way, and there’s a way of getting things done.” Dopp would resign later that year because of a scandal involving the state police monitoring Bruno.

    While Spitzer’s resignation speech heralded his accomplishments as governor, few others saw them in so positive a light.

    But in going, Spitzer seemed to unite observers.

    “I think it was a positive day,” said Farley. “The governor did the right thing by resigning.”

    Bartoletti also said Spitzer’s resignation was necessary.

    Categories: Schenectady County

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