The news has just broken that New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer intends to resign on Monday.Â This means that Lieutenant Governor, David Paterson, a relative unknown, will become the governor of New York State.Â More importantly, this means Joe Bruno, New York State Senate Majority Leader, will be tapped to “perform all the duties of lieutenant governor,” as per Article IV, Section 6 of the New York State Constitution.Â (Many thanks to Marc Hodak for that most helpful citation (and correction to my earlier posting).)Â
And here’s the rub – Bruno isÂ Republican; Paterson and Spitzer are Democrats.Â Moreover, Bruno was been very obviously and very painfully at odds with Spitzer.Â Bruno’s ascension, then, is interesting for three reasons:Â (1) It splits the Governor’s office power (to the extent that Bruno will be able to exercise some power as acting lieutenant governor, whatever that means) between Dem. and Republican, (2) it forces Bruno and Paterson to work together despite the Bruno-Spitzer animosity, and (3) it relieves the pressure on the very narrowly Republican New York State Senate.Â That last point is the most curious one for me, an Albany, NY, native.Â
Bruno, the majority leader in the Senate, has been trying to hold on to the very narrow Republican margin in the Senate.Â Paterson, the lieutenant governor, has had the authority to act as a tie-breaker for Senate ties, which put pressure on Bruno’s one person Republican margin in the Senate.Â Even just one Republican defector on a vote could force a tie that would give the Dems an extra vote (by Paterson).Â That’s a fair amount of Dem. power and Republican tension… that now appears to go away if Paterson is no longer the lieutenant governor.Â Right?Â (I cannot findÂ the provision of the NYS Constitution or Senate Rules that addresses this point.Â I am now sort of waiting to see if Marc Hodak concursâ€¦.Â (See his helpful comments in the â€œcommentsâ€ section.))
Also, in doing research, I see that this is the third time in recent historyÂ thatÂ our NYS Lieutenant Governor has had to step in for an exiting governor.Â Hmmm.Â Maybe the back door way to power, then, in New York State, is by becoming Lieutenant Governor and keeping your fingers crossed that your boss will drop the ball.