Is Spitzer Doomed?

A few months ago, when it was already clear that New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer would be elected governor, I wrote an article ...
by | February 9, 2007

Spitzer_1 A few months ago, when it was already clear that New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer would be elected governor, I wrote an article raising the question of whether Spitzer, who'd had a celebrated/reviled but undeniably influential run as AG, would be less powerful as governor.

So far, the answer appears to be "yes."

Spitzer certainly outlined a world-beater program in his State of the State address, calling for ethics reform, greater fiscal restraint, economic revitalization particularly in the upstate and major changes to the judiciary and public authorities. The problem is that he needs the legislature to sign off on most of his agenda to make it happen.

The New York legislature is notoriously recalcitrant and stand-offish. Spitzer has decided, it seems, to try to work around this problem by playing an "outside" game, knocking legislators in a highly public way in an effort to shame them.

He's now on a  tour of the state, going to members' districts -- including those of fellow Democrats -- to criticize them. That's not a great way to make friends. This comes on top of his general program to curb pork barreling.

In a sense, none of this is surprising. Spitzer sees himself as a reformer and, having won a major election victory, believes he has the public on his side and can win by persuading legislators that they should bow to public opinion.

Maybe. But Spitzer does have to persuade legislators. And as many governors have found , even legislators who agree with them philosophically will fight all the way if you cut out their perks or otherwise cross them. It's early days, but Spitzer appears convinced it's wise strategy to do both those things.

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