Friday, February 26, 2010

Paterson Drops Reelection Bid

Well, based on the mushroom cloud TNT of a scandal brewing in the Second Floor over Governor Paterson's inappropriate call to the accuser in a criminal case involving his adviser David Johnson and the actions by State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt, it comes as little surprise that David Paterson has decided not to run for reelection.

It remains to be seen whether he can manage to stick around in office until the end of his term given the way his actions may have crossed the line into criminality. Fred Dicker seems to think that Paterson bought himself another month in office:
No such sense of imminent resignation greeted Troopergate I when it took place 2½ years ago, after it was revealed by another pack of aggressive Cuomo investigators that Gov. Eliot Spitzer used the State Police in an effort to destroy a political foe.

The offenses then were considered serious, potentially criminal, but not quite impeachable. This time it's different.

The allegations against Paterson, top aide David Johnson and State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt are so shocking that it's considered likely that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Senate Democratic leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) would move to impeach the seriously unpopular governor if they're true.

Without Cuomo's probe, Paterson would have to step forward and answer questions about what he did, what he knew and the seeming contradictions in earlier comments.

Resignation would surely be at hand.

With the probe, Paterson can hide -- as he did on the John Gambling radio show yesterday -- behind the claim that he'd "better not discuss" the specifics of the charges for fear of interfering with Cuomo's investigation, which is expected to last about a month.

Another key difference between Troopergate I and Troopergate II is that Paterson, perhaps in a state of shock, signed a formal legal "referral" giving Cuomo full subpoena, prosecutorial and even grand-jury power.
Mind you that Cuomo is considered the presumptive front runner for the governorship, so this investigation is not without a sense of irony. Paterson is done, and this is all taking place with the backdrop that the state's financial situation is hanging on by a thread - multibillion dollar deficits and a state that has repeatedly failed to have the state budget in place on time for years on end.

This circus atmosphere has to end, and Paterson looks like he's the one that may make it happen - with his exit via resignation or impeachment. And that would mean that Richard Ravitch would become the third New York governor in as many years - and the second straight unelected official to do so (Ravitch was appointed by Paterson and a flurry of lawsuits culminated with a court decision ruling that Paterson had the power to do so).

Ravitch would probably be a good choice to finish out the term, given his experience in managing organizations in crisis, including the MTA. He seems to have broad support among Democrats. With the way that Paterson's friends are fleeing him, that may be the best move.

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