Thursday, February 08, 2007

Win and loss for Spitzer, no win for GOP

Newsday

This is a nice little recap of the past few days...the winners..the losers and the implications.........andy

In less than 24 hours, two Nassau Democrats dealt Gov. Eliot Spitzer the biggest political victory - and the biggest defeat - of his young administration, but analysts say that New York Republicans are the only losers as the Democratic governor and state Assembly flex their growing muscle."What you've got after these two events is a very strong Assembly majority and a very strong governor and a Republican party that's in disarray and decline," said political consultant Joe Mercurio, referring to Democrat Craig Johnson's victory in Nassau's 7th Senate District on Tuesday and the election of Assemb. Thomas DiNapoli (D-Great Neck) as state comptroller yesterday.Johnson's victory was made possible after Spitzer appointed the Republican who held the seat, Michael Balboni, as state homeland security chief, and was largely viewed as early evidence of the governor's political power.DiNapoli's election by the state Assembly, however, was a setback for Spitzer, who had wanted lawmakers to choose from among three people selected by a panel of former state comptrollers. None of the panel's choices were legislators.Still, "it's a good day for Eliot Spitzer and it's a good day for [Assembly Speaker] Shelly Silver," Mercurio said.John Marino, a political consultant and former Democratic party chairman, argued that it's too early in Spitzer's term to tally up wins and losses."There's certainly significance in Johnson winning a Senate seat and in DiNapoli being elected comptroller, but in the end neither one of these events, by themselves or even together, are going to have a profound impact on ultimate success of Eliot Spitzer," Marino said.But Spitzer can use both to burnish his image as a reformer, experts say.By depicting DiNapoli's election as comptroller as "an insider's game of self-dealing," the governor yesterday sought to recast a political power struggle as a public battle over ethics in government, said Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College."It gives him the opportunity to define the situation as 'us versus them,' and us is the governor and the people of New York and them are the corrupt, dysfunctional leadership of the state Legislature," Muzzio said. "It's definitely a loss, but it's also a call to arms in the larger war."That larger war includes a push by Democrats to gain control of the state Senate, where Johnson's victory reduces the Republican majority to 33-29. Over the past two years, the GOP majority in the Senate has shrunk by five votes.Senate President Joseph Bruno dismissed talk of his party's fading influence, and noted that it was members of Spitzer's own party who bucked him yesterday."We still have the majority in the Senate and our conference will go forward strong, united and committed to ensuring accountability, providing checks and balances and delivering results for our constituents," Bruno said. "This governor will learn there are three branches of government."Political consultant Michael Dawidziak of Bohemia, who works mostly with Republicans, said the events of the past two days offer a lesson for legislators as well. "Clearly," he said, "Eliot Spitzer is the 900-pound gorilla in the room as far as state politics goes."

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