By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff
Just as Governor Paterson was trying to dig out in Albany, is the GOP Senate takeover yet another shovel of dirt on his political grave? The most recent Marist Poll in New York State found that only 20% of voters statewide think Governor Paterson is changing the way things work in Albany for the better. Now, the page on Albany politics has turned from dysfunction to chaos bringing to a standstill the Governor’s attempts to score a few legislative points (he needs many) in the closing days of the session. Instead, the governor must now deal with a hostile turnover in Senate leadership, committee power, and changing staffs which accompany such an upheaval.
The matter is made more complicated for the governor, because for better or worse, as chief executive officer, he is the face of good and bad coming out of Albany. Dean Skelos and Malcolm Smith aren’t exactly household names.
So, what’s an unpopular, unelected governor to do? In the short run, Governor Paterson can respond aggressively to the political coup. He can try to bank on the huge numbers advantage Democrats enjoy statewide and call it a partisan power grab if he likes. But, with the often used words of “reform” and “transparency” bouncing around the capitol corridors once again (didn’t Eliot Spitzer promise not too long ago to change things in Albany from day one?), the likely immediate result of the political coup is gridlock. It’s hard to imagine how the governor can really benefit.
Governor Paterson takes a 19% approval rating into this leadership crisis. To have any chance of restoring his political standing he needs to emphasize issues ahead of political gain in his public pitter-patter. This would involve developing and advancing any semblance of an economic development theme. Tie his fortunes to the president’s stimulus plan. To unearth an effective economic program while others are pursuing power politics as usual might stop his political slide and get him out from under this current crisis. Will this work? It’s certainly a long shot, but what is his choice at this point?