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Spitzer Speculation Abounds in N.Y. Capital

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

It's been 24 hours since the public heard from Governor Spitzer. In the absence of news, there's been lots of speculation.

NPR's Mike Pesca reports from the state capital that the Spitzer bombshell yesterday brought work there to a screeching halt.

MIKE PESCA: The state capital at Albany - a gothic, grandiose place not known for its commitment to smooth efficiency - has been nearly paralyzed for a day now. Helen Desfosses, a political science professor at SUNY-Albany, says the same body that up until recently had gone for two decades without passing a budget on time has somehow become even more distracted.

Professor HELEN DESFOSSES (Political Science, SUNY-Albany): First of all, very, very little got done in the state of New York yesterday. Particularly in the state capital. Because people were, A, walking around totally disheartened and, B, were glued to the television waiting to see what the next step was going to be.

PESCA: It is understandable. Democrat Eliot Spitzer, the man who rode a reform train straight to the governor's mansion, has just been derailed. This afternoon, Dale Volker, a Republican who has served for 33 years in the State Senate, was saying that the governor would become the ex-governor any second now. Volker, who's a former cop, picked up a clue when he saw a hubbub surrounding the lieutenant governor.

State Senator DALE VOLKER (Republican, New York): When I saw the number of troopers that were standing outside David Patterson's door, I knew exactly what was happening. I think David expected to be governor yesterday. I don't think, I know. But I think the governor was so shocked he didn't exactly know what to do.

PESCA: It is an unprecedented situation in New York. A governor who had butted heads with so many in the capital was being butted back. Volker says he's looking forward to working with someone new.

State Sen. VOLKER: So if you said to me, is the resignation of Spitzer, does that improve the system? Well, in all honesty, given the fight that's been going on here, I would have to say it does.

PESCA: When you campaign on the promise that everything changes on day one, you had better expect that by day 435, you'd have made a few enemies, and Spitzer clearly has. But what's also clear is that his friends are in short supply. While Democrat Sheldon Silver, who is chairman of the Assembly, has stopped short of calling for the governor's resignation, not all the Democratic assembly members have viewed to that line. Take Mike Spano, Democrat from Yonkers.

Assemblyman MIKE SPANO (Democrat, New York State Assembly): I'm sure.

PESCA: Well, tell me about timeframe, when does you patience begin to wear thin and you need an answer?

Assemblyman SPANO: Oh, you mean yesterday?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Assemblyman SPANO: Pretty much. I mean, I think that - I would imagine we're going to hear something soon, and anything beyond this would really be egregious.

PESCA: And it's not just officials who've abandoned Spitzer. Professor Desfosses was one of the record-setting 69 percent of New Yorkers who voted for Spitzer. She, as a former Albany City council member, even raised money for him. But last night, Desfosses says she couldn't sleep because of the realization that she is a former Spitzer supporter.

Prof. DESFOSSES: I don't see any way that he could go forward. Because you have to have, for leadership, you have to have legitimacy, and you have to have a claim to moral leadership, which he, in particular, had singled out as - was something that was going to be the hallmark of his administration.

PESCA: Now, there are few in the entire capital who think of the hallmark of the Spitzer administration as being something other than squandered opportunity.

Mike Pesca, NPR News, Albany, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.