Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Will the Real Albany Reformer Please Stand Up?

The big New York government news from yesterday was the debate between Democratic gubernatorial candidates Eliot Spitzer and Thomas R. Suozzi. This was the sole debate to which the frontrunner Spitzer has agreed.

The early consensus seems to be that Spitzer emerged relatively unscathed. But Suozzi scored some points by sounding one of this blog's favorite themes: the dysfunction of New York State politics.

"New York State government is dysfunctional -- both parties are rotten to the core," Suozzi inveighed in his opening remarks. "If New York State was a Wall Street firm, Mr. Spitzer would have indicted it already," Suozzi continued. "But the reality is that in the past 7-1/2 years, he has not taken on the state government."

Suozzi later charged Spitzer with "never really focus[ing] on government reform," even though "[i]t's government that's hurting us." Spitzer is "embraced by all the politicians, all the insiders, and all the lobbyists who have given us this broken system." "If I'm elected governor of New York State, it will send the clearest message to every single politician in this state that business as usual is over," Suozzi added.

Spitzer also alluded to the need for reform, championing his record as a crusading attorney general and promising to "fundamentally change government so that it reflects a moral vision that we all share."

Talk of reforming New York State government was kept vague, as is perhaps to be expected from a televised debate. And in the scheme of Spitzer's much-touted run for Governor -- he has raised more than five times as much money as Suozzi and held a 69-point lead in the latest poll -- the event may be of little lasting significance. Let's hope, however, that Albany's dysfunctional culture remains in the spotlight during this campaign and the general election. The Governor is, after all, one of the "three men in a room" who exert oligarchic control over New York State politics. It will take a committed effort from the new Governor, whoever it is, to fundamentally change the system.

Round-up of debate coverage:
New York Times: "Sole Debate for Spitzer and Suozzi Is Fiery" and "In an Exchange of Zingers, the Truth Can Take a Hit"
Newsday: "Suozzi v. Spitzer: A Debate Volley"
New York Post: "Spitzer and Suozzi Come Out Swinging"
New York Daily News: "Suozzi Fails To Land KO"
Albany Times Union: "Spitzer, Suozzi Spar in Spirited Debate"
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: "Spitzer, Suozzi Talk Reform"
Buffalo News: "Spitzer, Suozzi Claim To Be True Reformers at Debate"
Utica Observer-Dispatch: "Spitzer, Suozzi Agree: Albany Needs Reformer"

Categories: General

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