Since it is a toss-up, today I'll address the depths to which leaderless New York has sunk and leave yet another of my California postmortems for next week.
What can save New York if it cannot find leadership at any level of government? Conditions have deteriorated so dramatically that 85-year-old former mayor Ed Koch put together a task force of powerful groups to encourage citizens to vote out the worst of the State Legislature.
Summarized Koch, "I don't believe the good ones are good enough and the bad ones are evil." [Who Can Save Albany?, by Sam Roberts, New York Times, March 4, 2010]
One pol that Koch won't have to worry about getting rid of: Governor David A. Paterson
Assuming the possibility, if not the probability, that Paterson will be forced out of office any day because of his involvement in a pair of concurrent scandals, New York will have had two consecutive governors (Eliot Spitzer is the first) resign in disgrace during the same term. Despite exhaustive research, I can find no similar circumstances in American history.
As far as New York itself is concerned, you'd have to go back to 1825 when the governorship turned over three times in four years—-but for legitimate reasons. (When Governor DeWitt Clinton died in office, he was replaced by Lt. Governor Nathaniel Pitcher who in 1828 then lost in the general election to Martin Van Buren. The future eighth president Van Buren served only two months before being named Secretary of State in the Andrew Jackson administration.)
Paterson, who has already announced that he will not run for re-election, is under fire for allegedly interfering in a domestic violence dispute involving his close aide and confidant David Johnson, as well as lying under oath about his intention to pay for five World Series tickets.
On top of that Paterson, who admitted to multiple sexual indiscretions immediately after being sworn in to replace Spitzer, is reported to have been recently seen "neck kissing" a woman not his wife and caught by a state trooper in the proverbial and always awkward "compromising situation."
The ongoing Spitzer-Paterson circus does provide some desperately needed laughs—but only if you don't live in New York.
Spitzer, a mere two years after having been outed for spending $5,000 a pop for a trysts with a sub-average, hard-as-nails looking Washington D.C. hooker Ashley Dupre, is now an ethics (!) lecturer on the college scene.
In November 2009, Spitzer addressed his alma mater Harvard University on "ethics in government." One month earlier, Spitzer accepted a teaching position at the City College of New York. His class is titled "Law and Public Policy"
If you missed Spitzer in Cambridge, you have time to catch him at the State University of New Paltz on March 11.
My advice to campus administrators: lock up the coeds!
Unbelievable, considering that while in office, Spitzer broke the law as many as 80 times according to Kristin Davis, the madam who managed the prostitution service he frequented.
Davis, you should know, announced her candidacy for governor and will run on the pro-pot, pro-prostitution platform.
My head is spinning from the ludicrousness of it all!
The bright side of the Spitzer/Paterson mess: it may open up, if only ever so slightly, an opportunity for Republican challenger Rick Lazio who has occasionally demonstrated some common sense about immigration.
Lazio, you may recall, is the former Long Island Congressman who was eaten alive by Hillary Clinton during their raucous first 2000 debate when both were campaigning for U.S. Senator. Clinton so dominated Lazio that the two remaining follow up confrontations were tame imitations of the original.
If you watched those debates, as I did, you would come away with the impression that Lazio is not much of a candidate.
But that was then and this is now. Ten years ago, Clinton ran partially but not entirely as the Woman Scorned. When she was put on the defensive about Bill's behavior (not her own), New York voters of both genders rallied around her.
Post-Spitzer/Paterson, however, Lazio doesn't have to do much to look good.
Being Republican might be enough to carry him over the top. Who would argue with Lazio's battle cry that the time has come to clean up Albany?
Lately, Lazio has inched up in the polls. He's running comfortably ahead in a projected match up against Paterson, 46 to 39 percent.
Lazio does lag the probable but yet unannounced Democratic challenger, Andrew Cuomo, 55 to 30 percent.
This is not to despair, however. Cuomo has plenty of baggage that, given the pathetic performance of recent Democrats, could harm him.
Among them are Cuomo's pitiful 2002 gubernatorial campaign that ended in his withdrawal, his questionable associations at Housing and Urban Development when he was Secretary and his messy, high-profile divorce from Kerry Kennedy, Bobby's daughter.
Most damning of all is that Cuomo is a Democrat in an increasingly anti-Democrat electorate.
Like Lazio, Pataki was a relative unknown who ran as a fiscal conservative. Behind by as much a ten points in the polls leading up to election day, Pataki came from behind in the final weeks to edge out Cuomo.
Lazio is preaching the same sermon that worked for Pataki—-smaller government and lower taxes.
As for immigration, Lazio's votes during his four terms from 1993 to 2001 were mixed. He consistently voted for increases in non-immigrant worker visas but supported the use of troops on the border and workplace verification.
Lazio's record isn't perfect but he would be a far cry better than Cuomo.
Given its disastrous condition, the only direction New York can go in is up. A Republican who at least advocates a moderate immigration position would be the first step in the right direction.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.