Friday, December 22, 2006

Long list of hopefuls


With Alan Hevesi poised to resign as state controller, a slew of veteran Democrats began jockeying to replace him yesterday - although "none of the above" appeared to be the choice of Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer.
"Anybody who thinks that some insider without the relevant experience is going to get this job is just wrong," said one top Spitzer aide. "It'll likely be someone no one is talking about right now."
But Spitzer's coolness to the current list of names did not stop a small sea of trial balloons - some self-inflated, others sent aloft by friends - from rising over the Capitol's dome in Albany.
Some of the Democrats being mentioned included 2002 controller candidate Bill Mulrow, former Buffalo prosecutor Denise O'Donnell, Long Island Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion and Westchester County Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, among others.
Technically, assuming Hevesi resigns today as planned, it is up to the Legislature to name his replacement, with a two-thirds vote of both houses required for approval.
In reality, because Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Legislature, the choice will effectively fall to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who is expected to confer with Spitzer, a fellow Democrat.
But just how much conferring will go on - and how hard Spitzer and Silver may choose to fight if they can't agree on a candidate - was adding another level of intrigue to the jockeying yesterday.
"I intend to work with the governor-elect to the best of my ability," said Silver, who said he hasn't ruled anyone out and looked forward to questioning prospective candidates at public hearings.
One highly placed source in Democratic circles said that because Spitzer, Lt. Gov.-elect David Paterson and Attorney General-elect Andrew Cuomo are all from the city, Hevesi's replacement would likely be an upstater or suburbanite.
Silver wasn't naming favorites yesterday, but among those known to be lining up support were five members of his caucus. In addition to DiNapoli and Brodsky, they are Assemblymen Joseph Morelle (D-Rochester), Alexander (Pete) Grannis (D-Manhattan) and Michael Gianaris (D-Queens).
They, along with Mulrow, were privately dismissed, however, by aides to Spitzer.
Many saw Mulrow, who did not return calls for comment, as a possible front-runner, given his relevant financial background, his previous interest in the job and the strong support he enjoyed from public sector unions in 2002.
But Mulrow has worked more recently as a lobbyist for Excelsior Racing Associates, a group vying to take over horse racing tracks from the New York Racing Association and whose principal, Richard Fields, donated some $200,000 to Spitzer's campaign.
In the mix?
Some of the names being discussed to replace Alan Hevesi as state controller:
Bill Mulrow, investment banker, former candidate for state controller in 2002. A graduate of Harvard and Yale, Mulrow ran a solid race against Hevesi in 2002 and has a strong financial background. But his work as a lobbyist since then could pose a conflict.
Denise O'Donnell, former U.S. attorney from Buffalo who bowed out of race for attorney general. As a woman and an upstater, O'Donnell could add some balance at the top of the Democrats' all-male, all-city team. But she's a lawyer, not an accountant.
Tom DiNapoli, state assemblyman from Nassau County. A top lieutenant to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, DiNapoli has some heavyweight backing in his corner. But aides say Spitzer is unlikely to support anyone whose independence can be questioned.
Richard Brodsky, state assemblyman from Westchester County who bowed out of race for attorney general because of daughter's health. Some call him a maverick, others just call him a headline hunter who may be too much of an attack dog to be controller.

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