How Will the Presidential Race Affect State Senate?
Henry J. Stern
Can Sophomore Spitzer Recover?
The start of the month is a good time to look around, review what happened last month and what is likely to happen in the next four weeks.
America in general, and the political community in particular, are preoccupied with the national election. Every four years they change the rules, and the innovation in 2008 is an early Super Tuesday, coming just two days after the Super Bowl. We go in for superlatives, in sports and politics as well as in business and life.
Dozens of pundits and prophets describe the action each day, and it would be superfluous for us to join them.
Day One – Everything changes
Day 397 – Pretty much the same
Governor Spitzer delivered his State of the State message on Jan. 9, and his proposed executive budget for fiscal 2009 on Jan. 22. The budget increase of 5.3 percent was more modest than last year’s 7.8 percent, but is likely to be increased by the legislature, particularly for their member items (the equivalent of Congressional earmarks) which direct goodies to individual districts. Member items are not intrinsically evil, but the way they are handed out by legislative leaders on the basis of party membership and obedience is distasteful. It is an outrage when a company that receives a member item employs a legislator (or his girlfriend) who secured the item for them, but it is alleged that such a practice is not unknown at the capitol. Senator Efrain Gonzales (D-Bx) has been indicted on related charges.
The governor’s influence has been sharply reduced as the result of an unfortunate first year marked by intemperate statements, the botched attempt on Senator Bruno’s career, and errors in judgment. The governor’s new staff will minimize such blunders this year. Spitzer has most likely been chastened by his sharp decline in the polls. He attributes that to his standing up for principle. If he really believes that, he is in trouble.
The national elections will divert a lot of attention from state issues this year. Hopefully it will be a year of healing. Unfortunately, healing usually means consolidating the victory of the status quo over any reformist notions the governor had before he came to grief. As usual, we wish him all the best. We also defend him from the kangaroo court of Senate Republicans. Even if he did what he was accused of, their ethical standards are lower than his, at least so far.
The possibility is increasing (as of this writing) of a presidential campaign between Senator McCain and Senator Clinton, although Senator Obama, whose fortunes have been rising, cannot be counted out. Despite the fact that New York is a blue state, and our home Senator is likely to carry it, McCain should run well enough, particularly upstate, so that a turnover of the State Senate cannot be assumed.
Hillary has been called a New Yorker out of opportunity, rather than birth, but that is unfair.
She was born and raised in Illinois, attended college in Massachusetts (Wellesley), went to law school in Connecticut (Yale), worked in the District of Columbia, lived for years in Arkansas, where she practiced law, moved back to the District of Columbia for eight years when she was First Lady, and then moved to New York, settling in Chappaqua. That’s one of the great things about our country, you can go to different states for different reasons.
Pat Moynihan, for example, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was a professor at Harvard University in Massachusetts. After serving in Washington, D.C., he came to New York, where he was defeated in the Democratic primary for city council president in 1965.
Bobby Kennedy was from Massachusetts, lived in Virginia for many years, and came to New York State just in time to run for the Senate in 1964.
Richard Nixon, having been defeated in his race for Governnor of California, moved to New York City in 1963 and ran for the presidency from 810 Fifth Avenue here.
If you are looking for political pedigrees, you will find them in the Adams, Bush, Harrison and Roosevelt families. They all had two Presidents. It’s not that much of a new thing.
The late Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill (D-Mass) is credited with the saying, “All politics is local.” Under that rule, New Yorkers have two concerns: 1) Will the Democrats take over the State Senate, and 2) If Hillary is elected, who will Governor Spitzer appoint to the Senate?