NEW York may be about to have its first African- American governorand not a minute too soon.
The "dirty tricks" scandalGov. Spitzer's attempt to use the State Police to "steamroll" state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, and his subsequent clumsy coverupnow looks like small potatoes. The revelation that Spitzer enjoyed the services of a high-end Washington call-girl ring may bring with it federal chargesand likely means the end of an exceptionally maladroit administration.
It's been forgotten now, but the former "Sheriff of Wall Street" rose to power by his own rules. After all, he began his career by using his father's money to systematically cheat the spiritif not the letterof the state campaign-finance laws to win office as attorney general. He then spent years engaging in elaborate denials about those shenanigans, with vague apologies mixed in as necessary when caught in his lies.
As attorney general, he started out by taking on genuine malfeasance on Wall Streetbut ended up prosecuting petty cases in order to bully companies into installing his cronies in key corporate positions.
His first year as governor was one magnificent botch. Little of his reform agenda passed while the "Dirty Tricks" affair and his illegal-alien drivers-license debacle left his popularity in free-fall.
And now his reputation for integrity is destroyed. It's hard to see how he can remain as governoror why he should.
A good first step to cleaning up Albany now is for Eliot Spitzer to leave. After all the scandals, coverups and denials, he's become the single biggest obstacle to his own reform agenda.
If he does resign, the governorship would be in the hands of relatively little-known Lt.-Gov. David Paterson.
Paterson, an avowed liberal, is an engaging man, willing to listen to people he disagrees with. I had dinner with him several times at B. Smithand despite our policy differences, I found him easy to discuss matters with and willing to debate the issues.
A longtime minority member of the state Senate before becoming lieutenant governor, he'd bring to the governor's office the legislative perspective and understanding of how the capital works that Gov. Steamroller has so notably lacked.
He even gets along well with Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno; he just might be able to bring a welcome spirit of openness to Albany.
Not incidentally, he is the son of Basil Patersonone of Harlem's famed Gang of Five, along with Rep. Charles Rangel, former Mayor David Dinkins, Assembly Ways & Means Chairman Denny Farrell and Harlem clubhouse boss Percy Sutton. The group has long run Harlem's political scene.
Basil was New York City's first black deputy mayoras well as the first black candidate for statewide elected office (lieutenant governor) in New York, and under Gov. Hugh Carey the first black secretary of state. He once held the same state Senate seat his son would later in effect be given by the Harlem leadership after its then-occupant died in office.
But, while his father may have effectively anointed him a state senator, David has kept an arms-length over the years from the Gang of Fiverepeatedly running for office even as his father endorsed opposing candidates, and taking some taboo positions, including prominent support for vouchers and school choice.
Still, it's hard to know what to make of a would-be reformer who spent 20 years as an Albany backbencher before taking a larger role in 2002, or of an independent who owed his Senate seat to the Harlem clubhouse.
Yet David Paterson, legally blind his whole life, has beaten the odds before. After all, before yesterday, he was seen as unlikely to ever become governor.
Now, after less than a year and a half of Gov. Spitzer, this former longshot may well be the best bet New York has for a clean sweep in Albany.
Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/seven/03112008/postopinion/opedcolumnists/gov__longshot__101402.htm