New York: A Diminished State
NEW YORK -- Always
antic and occasionally comic, the maneuverings for what once mattered
greatly, this state's governorship, refute the state's motto,
``Excelsior.'' That means ``ever upward,'' which does not describe
the trajectory of the state that soon will cease being the most
populous east of the Mississippi.
Gov. George Pataki
is not seeking a fourth term. Polls showed him being trounced
by the probable -- but not certain; read on -- Democratic nominee,
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Pataki, who favors gun control,
gay rights and abortion rights, is nevertheless evincing interest
in the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. He recently genuflected
to an Iowa god, calling for ethanol to be made in New York and
available tax-free at service stations. Ethanol is made from agricultural
products, such as Iowa corn.
Spitzer is the state's
most prominent crime-buster since Thomas Dewey, who in the 1940s
rode his reputation to the governorship and two Republican presidential
nominations. Back then, New York had 12 more electoral votes than
the second most populous state (Pennsylvania). Spitzer's prominence
flows from his flamboyant use -- many say abuse -- of his office
to build a reputation as a scourge of Wall Street, although his
record reveals more publicity than convictions.
Reports of Spitzer's
verbal bullying -- which he says are wrong and, anyway, ``You
will not change the world by whispering'' -- will not hurt him
here, where mere rudeness passes for gentility. But his path to
Albany -- en route, his acolytes suggest, to Washington as America's
first Jewish president -- acquired an impediment last week.
Long Islander Thomas
Suozzi is the Nassau County executive, with a budget larger than
that of seven states. Having won 59 percent of the votes in a
Republican-majority county, he has announced that he might challenge
Spitzer for the Democratic nomination. Last year Governing magazine
named Suozzi one of the nation's eight best executives, largely
for rescuing Nassau County from the bottom of the list compiled
by Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public
Affairs that grades the governance of the nation's 40 largest
The survivor of the
Spitzer-Suozzi fracas might face Bill Weld, who wants to become
the first person since Sam Houston (Tennessee and Texas) to be
governor of two states. Weld was governor of Massachusetts for
one and a half terms, at which point he resigned, apparently bored
and certainly hoping to become ambassador to Mexico, a plan that
failed because Jesse Helms, then chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, did not like Weld's social liberalism any
more than New York's Conservative Party is apt to. No Republican
has won a statewide race without the Conservative endorsement
Weld, an ebullient
campaigner and a proven lightener of government's weight, might
be just what this overtaxed state needs. In the last quarter-century,
according to a Manhattan Institute study, New York has created
new jobs less than half as fast as the rest of the nation. That
is understandable, given that New York's state and local tax burden
is nearly 20 percent above the national average.
must dispel the dark cloud of his association, as investor and
$700,000 CEO, with a for-profit college in Louisville that recently
collapsed in circumstances that interest federal investigators.
Speaking of prosecutions, former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, a Republican
product of Nassau County in its flagrantly unreformed days, says
he will not support Weld even if he is the GOP nominee, and not
just because of ``the multimillion-dollar looting of these poor
kids down in Tennessee (sic) who went to this sham college.''
Nearly 20 years ago, Weld was head of the criminal division of
the U.S. Justice Department, which prosecuted D'Amato's brother
-- but after Weld left the department.
want to give their gubernatorial nomination to Tom Golisano, a
billionaire upstate businessman who, running as an independent,
three times lost to Pataki, never winning more than 14 percent
of the vote. His virtue, as some Republicans understand that concept,
is that he would finance his own trouncing.
New York's political
weight once was such that, in an 80-year span, from 1868 through
1948, New Yorkers appeared on more than half of the two major
parties' presidential tickets, and five became president. But
New York has lost 16 congressional seats since 1948 and, after
the 2010 Census, Florida probably will supplant New York as the
third most populous state. Of course New York's junior senator,
whose first-announced Republican opponent to her re-election has
already withdrawn, plans to be president by then. Excelsior.
2006, Washington Post Writers Group