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Spitzer, 22nd disgraced gov to leave office

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/nyregion/12cnd-resign.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin Thursday, March 13, 2008 Spitzer, 22nd disgraced gov to leave office By Eric
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 12, 2008

      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
      chronological order:

      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
      impeachment proceedings.
      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
      conspiracy crimes.
      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
      Neutrality Act.
      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
      in 1929.*
      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
      from office

      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.

      Spitzer’s 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
      public’s work,” Spitzer said as announced his

      Spitzer’s 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
      state’s Children’s 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
      party’s 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 state’s
      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 didn’t step aside.

      The lieutenant governor, Paterson, also will make
      history by becoming New York’s first African-American
      governor and the nation’s 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 state’s 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 Spitzer’s 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 Tucker’s 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.

      Spitzer’s 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 governor’s 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.
      Bruno’s (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
      higher education.

      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
      state’s inner cities and rural areas.

      “This is traumatizing and already challenging the
      [state] government’s 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 Spitzer’s
      resignation is that Paterson no longer will cast the
      deciding vote in the narrowly divided Senate. Instead,
      Spitzer’s legislative arch-enemy, Republican Senate
      President Bruno, not only will run the Senate but also
      serve as acting governor if Paterson cannot serve or

      Paterson’s 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@...
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