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April 11, 2008
by Stephanie Grayson
In the wake of the sex scandal involving former governor Eliot Spitzer and the Emperor’s Club VIP, an upscale prostitution ring, attention has turned to his replacement, Governor David Paterson, who was sworn in on March 17. While many see this Albany upheaval as an opportunity for change, others wonder if it will only lead to more of the same.
The unfulfilled promises of the Spitzer administration, which campaigned on the reform-based platform of “changing the ethics of Albany,” only fuel this suspicion. Ironically, Spitzer’s dalliances at the Emperor’s Club coincided with his vigorous investigations into New York prostitution and alleged Wall Street corruption during his two terms as New York’s attorney general. His prosecutorial zeal earned him the title of “Crusader of the Year” from Time magazine in 2002.
Spitzer’s critics maintain that his self-professed image of being above the fray only expedited his whirlwind fall from power. Additionally, his generally acknowledged acerbic personality, desire for publicity and reputation for running heavy-handed investigations alienated many of his colleagues, leaving few who lamented his resignation.
Paterson expected to heal the rifts and political infighting in Albany
Paterson, who is well-liked and widely regarded as being more easy-going than his predecessor, is expected to help heal the rifts and political infighting in Albany. Many look forward to a new era of improved bipartisan relations in New York politics under Paterson’s stewardship.
“They are polar opposites. David is amiable, easy to get along with, easy to talk to, he pays attention. He doesn’t impose his power upon anyone,” said former State Assemblyman Marty Luster to The Ithaca Journal. “He works with people to get things done and has [built] a tremendous reputation over the last 20 years as being an amiable legislator. Quite honestly I think if you walked the halls of the capital today or a couple of weeks ago . . . I don’t think you’d find anyone that had anything negative to say about him, and that’s a great way to start.”
Others, such as Conservative Party Chairman Michael R. Long, have also responded positively to Paterson’s approachable demeanor and assurances of working across party lines. To The Buffalo News, Long commented, “If he wants to seriously shrink the state budget, or eliminate the mandates, or reduce the fees, we’ll be there to help him.”
Paterson decides to start his tenure with the truth
At the same time, some question the likelihood of Paterson’s promise for smooth transition, given that on his first day in office, he admitted to having his own extra-marital affairs. “I just wanted to get straight with New York’s citizens, so that they know who their governor is,” Paterson told reporters. “We decided to tell the truth. The reason that we would tell the truth is so that the citizens of this state would know that when confronted with these questions, that we would be honest.”
This frankness with the public is one of many changes in store for New York politics. Unlike Spitzer, Paterson is openly opposed to the death penalty and eminent domain, and has expressed a willingness to implement tax increases on the wealthy. To help reduce the state’s $4.4 billion budget deficit, Paterson recently proposed $800 million in additional spending reductions.
During his two decades in the state senate, the Harlem native also supported and sponsored a litany of liberal measures, including a $1 billion voter-approved stem cell research initiative, an abortion rights bill, the legalization of gay marriage and a significant state investment in the development of an alternative energy infrastructure.
Time will tell whether with his witty charm, conciliatory nature, and experience in local politics, Paterson will be able to rebuild the prestige of New York’s governorship, and rescue the state from its current fiscal crisis.
New Lieutenant Governor Republican Joe Bruno is optimistic. “He is a compromiser . . . so, it’s going to be a great contrast, and hopefully . . . we’re going to be getting things done.”
Stephanie Grayson is a sophomore at Horace Greeley High School and a staff writer on the Tribune.