Thursday, March 13, 2008
Spitzer, 22nd disgraced gov to leave office
By Eric Kelderman, Stateline.org Staff Writer
Scandals force out 22 govs
Twelve resigned in the face of political or legal
problems, and 10 were removed before the end of their
terms following impeachment or court orders.
Governors who resigned amid political scandal, in
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), effective March 17,
2008, after it was disclosed that he had hired
New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D), who resigned
effective November 2004 after revealing in August 2004
that he had an affair with another man.
Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland (R), who stepped down
effective July 1, 2004, in the face of impeachment
proceedings and a federal criminal probe into
allegations that he steered contracts to political
allies and companies and accepted gifts from
contractors, including renovations to a vacation home.
Arizona Gov. Fife Symington (R), who left office in
1997 after being convicted of federal bank and wire
fraud charges that later were overturned.
Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker (D), who resigned in July
1996 after being convicted of two felony charges
related to the Whitewater investigations. Legislative
leaders and the lieutenant governor had called for
Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton (D), embroiled in a
pardon-selling scandal, who quit his post with just
three days left in 1979. He was acquitted of those
charges but later convicted of unrelated extortion and
Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel (D), who resigned in 1977
after being convicted of racketeering and mail fraud.
He served 19 months in prison before his conviction
was overturned. President Ronald Reagan (R) pardoned
Mandel in 1981.
Louisiana Gov. Richard Leche (D), who resigned in 1939
after a federal mail fraud conviction.
Indiana Gov. Warren McCray (R), who was convicted of
mail fraud and resigned in 1924.
Mississippi Gov. Adelbert Ames (R), who resigned after
being impeached in 1876 but before the Legislature
could convict and remove him.
Georgia Gov. Rufus Brown Bullock (R), who resigned in
1871 while under investigation for a number of crimes.
Mississippi Gov. John A. Quitman (D), who resigned in
1851 before his arrest by a federal marshal and after
an 1850 indictment for violating the federal
Governors who were removed after impeachment or
legally forced from office by courts:
Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt (R), who was legally removed in
1993 after being convicted of illegally using campaign
and inaugural funds to pay personal debts.
Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham (R), who was impeached in
North Dakota Gov. Thomas H. Moodie (D), who was
legally removed from office by the state Supreme Court
in 1935, less than a month into his term, after it was
determined he was in violation of state residency
North Dakota Gov. William Langer (Non-Partisan
League), who was legally removed from office by the
state Supreme Court in 1934 after being charged with
soliciting money from state workers.
Oklahoma Gov. Henry S. Johnson (D), who was impeached
Oklahoma Gov. John C. Walton (D), who was impeached in
Texas Gov. James E. Ferguson (D), who was impeached in
New York Gov. William Sulzer (D), who was impeached in
Nebraska Gov. David Butler (R), who was impeached in
North Carolina Gov. William W. Holden (D), who was
impeached in 1871.
Two governors also have been recalled by voters in the
nation's history: California Gov. Gray Davis (D) in
2003 and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (D) in 1921.
*Johnson also was impeached in 1927, but not removed
Source: Stateline.org reporting and the National
Governors Association database
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), who earned a national
reputation fighting white-collar crime, Wednesday
(March 12) became the 22nd governor in U.S. history to
leave office early under a cloud of scandal.
He is the 12th governor to resign in the face of
political or legal problems; 10 others tainted by
scandal were removed from office before the end of
their terms after being impeached or legally removed.
Spitzers departure is effective Monday (March 17), a
week after it was disclosed that a federal
investigation caught him hiring high-priced
prostitutes. The disclosure sent a shock wave not just
through the state capitol in Albany but also through
the national Democratic Party, where Spitzer was seen
as a rising star. He has been a strong ally of
Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Hillary
Clinton of New York.
I cannot allow my public failings to disrupt the
publics work, Spitzer said as announced his
Spitzers resignation only 15 months into his term
comes at a crucial time. It forces his successor Lt.
Gov. David Paterson (D) to immediately wrestle with
how to close a $4.4 billion deficit in the budget plan
due April 1, although New York is notorious for
missing its budget deadlines.
Spitzer initiatives left in limbo include his
cutting-edge proposal to lease the state lottery to
private investors and his defiant push to use state
money to cover 70,000 more children through the
states Childrens Health Insurance Program after the
Bush administration said they were ineligible because
their families earned too much.
His absence from the political scene also rattles his
partys dream of taking control of the state Senate in
November for the first time in more than 40 years.
Democrats are short just one seat in the Senate; they
already control the state Assembly.
Unlike Spitzer, at least six governors in recent
history have ridden out the political storm over
sexual scandals, such as extramarital affairs, and
finished their terms. Spitzer becomes the second to
leave office early because of his sexual behavior,
following New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D), who
stunningly announced in August 2004 that he is gay and
said he had an affair with another man the states
former homeland security advisor. McGreevey stepped
down that November.
The 10 other governors who quit office early because
of scandals faced criminal charges or the threat of
impeachment. It was still unclear whether Spitzer
could face legal charges as part of the federal
investigation, which was probing his cash transfers to
the escort business, according to news sources.
Republicans in the Legislature already were
threatening impeachment if he didnt step aside.
The lieutenant governor, Paterson, also will make
history by becoming New Yorks first African-American
governor and the nations fourth black governor. The
first was Louisiana Gov. Pinckney Benton Stewart
Pinchback (R), who succeeded to the post in December
1872, while Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder (D) was
elected in 1989 and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
(D) was elected in 2006.
Paterson also will be the first blind U.S. governor,
said John Paré, spokesman for the National Federation
of the Blind. Blind since birth, Paterson is the son
of Basil Paterson, the states first black secretary
of state and black vice-chairman of the National
Democratic Party. David Paterson was previously the
state Senate minority leader and worked as a
prosecutor before going into politics.
In assuming Spitzers term, which expires in 2011,
Paterson joins an elite club of lieutenant governors
to ascend unexpectedly to higher office and who have
gone on to success in the wake of their predecessors
failures. Former Arkansas governor and GOP
presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, for example,
served out the final two years of Democratic Gov. Jim
Guy Tuckers term after his conviction in 1996 for two
felony charges relating to the Whitewater
investigation into real-estate deals by Bill and
Hillary Clinton. Huckabee then was re-elected to two
additional full terms.
Spitzers fall from grace puts an abrupt end to a
meteoric political career as a crusader against
corruption. As attorney general, from 1999 to 2007, he
made a national name for himself cracking down on
unethical business practices on Wall Street.
In 2006, Spitzer routed Republican John Faso to
replace New York Gov. George Pataki (R) and become the
first Democrat in the governors mansion in 12 years.
His was one of four governors seats that Democrats
reclaimed from the GOP in 2006, giving the party
control of a majority of governors mansions for the
first time since 1994.
In office, Spitzer promised to fix what many have
described as the chronic dysfunction of divided
government in Albany. Critics, however, charge Spitzer
perpetuated that dysfunction by being heavy-handed
with political opponents: He initiated an
investigation into Senate President Pro Tem Joseph L.
Brunos (R) use of state helicopters and police cars
and famously told Assembly Minority Leader James
Tedisco (R) that he would roll over you and anyone
else, according to the New York Post.
Now his absence will jeopardize his political reform
efforts as well as more immediate measures to close
the looming budget deficit, including a $1 billion
package of tax and fee hikes, a plan to rake in as
much as $250 million by expanding video slots at the
famed Belmont Park racetrack and a proposal to lease
the state lottery to raise a $4 billion endowment for
The governor also had laid out plans this year to
establish a $1 billion fund to create jobs in upstate
New York and a Doctors Across New York program to
provide grants to physicians willing to move to the
states inner cities and rural areas.
This is traumatizing and already challenging the
[state] governments ability to function effectively,
said political scientist Gerald Benjamin at the State
University of New York New Paltz.
Under the New York Constitution, the office of
lieutenant governor will remain vacant until the 2010
gubernatorial election. One big irony of Spitzers
resignation is that Paterson no longer will cast the
deciding vote in the narrowly divided Senate. Instead,
Spitzers legislative arch-enemy, Republican Senate
President Bruno, not only will run the Senate but also
serve as acting governor if Paterson cannot serve or
Patersons succession also makes the math more
difficult for Democrats to take control of the state
Senate in November. Instead of winning just one more
seat to be able to outnumber Republicans in the
62-seat chamber, Democrats will have to win two.
Without a lieutenant governor to cast a tie-breaking
vote, Democrats now at 30 seats will need 32, not
31 for a majority of votes.
Political scientist Ken Sherrill at Hunter College
said Spitzer had helped Statehouse candidates with his
prodigious fundraising. This entire episode will make
it much more difficult [for Democrats] to pick up
seats, he said.
Staff Writers Pamela M. Prah and Daniel C. Vock and
intern Vicki Ekstrom contributed to this report
Contact Eric Kelderman at: ekelderman@...