March 13, 2008

N.Y. State Gov. Spitzer Leaves Office; Paterson to Take Over

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Two days after Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-N.Y.) was implicated on prostitution charges, he stood with his wife before members of the media in his Manhattan office.
“Over the course of my public life, I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct,” he said. “I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of the governor.”
For the last two days, the state government of New York has literally been brought to a halt in anticipation of Spitzer’s resignation, which came after he was found to have spent over $80,000 on prostitutes, according to the Associated Press. Come Monday, he said, Lieutenant Gov. David A. Paterson will take office.
Paterson followed Spitzer’s resignation with a statement of his own.
“I ask all New Yorkers to join Michelle and me in prayer for them,” Paterson said. “It is now time for Albany to get back to work as the people of this state expect from us.”
Though there is a tinge of sadness in the air, many are excited about the new governor. County Legislator Nathan Shinagawa ’05 (D-4th District), chair of the Tompkins County Budget and Capital Committee, said he was devastated by the allegations, but is encouraged by what Paterson can bring to New York.
“I’ve met Paterson a few times and when I’ve met him, he’s been a humble and modest man,” Shinagawa said. “I’ve heard he has a bipartisan spirit that works across party lines. I’m excited.”
Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government, also expressed her opinion that Paterson is the best person to take over in this time.
“The thing I’ve heard about him is that he’s a pretty remarkable guy,” Sanders said. “He’s the perfect guy to take over because he’s nice and easy-going, not arrogant and abrasive like Spitzer … That is what the state needs right now.”
Spitzer has long been involved in Cornell and Ithaca politics. Until today, Spitzer — as every governor does — served as an ex-officio member of Cornell’s Board of Trustees, meaning he sat on the board but was unable to vote.
Spitzer also came to Ithaca in January and pledged $2.3 million of state money to help clean up the dilapidated Ithaca Gun Factory. Before that, he came to Ithaca in Sept. 2006 for a debate against Assemblyman John Faso while running for governor.
“Cornell is one of the great assets of New York State. It is an amazing university, and it has contributed over the years through the Cornell agricultural extension programs, and the SUNY piece of Cornell has done great things for the state economy,” he told The Sun while in town for the debate.
However, Paterson also has strong ties to the area, according to Shinagowa.
“David Paterson has been to Tompkins County a lot,” he said. “He has a daughter that goes to Ithaca College, so there’s a local connection as well.”
Robert Semple, associate editor for the New York Times and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, asserted in his lecture in Goldwin Smith’s Lewis Auditorium last night that many people, including him, do not yet know much about Paterson. He added that lieutenant governors are not usually elected for their ability to eventually be governor. Instead, they are chosen on the basis of their popularity.
But according to The New York Times, state and national politicians have already touted Paterson as the best possible person to take over for Spitzer. Paterson, 53, will become the New York’s first black governor. His staff has begun working on what many claim will be the state’s most prominent issue: its $4.4 Billion debt.
“The budget is going to be the biggest issue,” Shinagawa said. “It’s of course going to be a challenge. Paterson has the same legislative priorities as Spitzer so I don’t think we’ll see a change in what Spitzer wanted. The good thing is that Paterson was a state legislator beforehand.”
When Paterson takes office on Monday, people will watch him to see how he handles the transition. Meanwhile, Spitzer will take some time off from politics for reevaluation and healing.
“As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family,” Spitzer told the media. “Then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and our children.”