The symbolic significance of Eliot Spitzer’s victory was certainly on display last night at the Sheraton Hotel on 7th Ave and 53rd, the regular hangout for Empire State Democrats on Election Day: There was Mario Cuomo, taking the stage in the same room where he conceded twelve years ago. A lot was different this time: Mario wasn’t speaking, a Cuomo was a winner, and the sound system was much better than in 1994.
The younger Cuomo and his fellow statewide winners seemed to be vying for who could march on and off the stage to the most kick-ass rock theme. Andrew wisely chose Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Hillary Clinton, who got laughs when she applauded John Spencer for running “a spirited campaign,” rocked off to “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” (She also uttered the requisite “Now I think it’s time to come together as a country.”) David Paterson, who noted that “there has never been a lieutenant governor who looked like me,” gets kudos for picking Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up.” And the governor-elect? He bounded on stage right as Tom Petty belted out the chorus of “I Won’t Back Down.” This was notable: Many pols botch their big musical entry and end up pumping their fist awkwardly to a guitar solo.
What was also notable was the absence of any mention of the New York State Comptroller. Each speaker would give shout outs to Eliot, Hillary, Andrew … and then move on. As the hour approached 11 p.m., a television in the press filing center showed Alan Hevesi accepting victory at his own headquarters. Reporters had to crowd around the set to hear him because the volume was turned down. At the Sheraton, Paterson began speaking before Hevesi had even finished.
When it came to the candidates whose names could be uttered at the Sheraton, there was a feeling of anti-climax. This was not the feel-good parallel to 1994, when stunned campaign volunteers crowded around televisions to witness the Republican Revolution. The fact that New York’s statewide races were a done deal weeks ago, and that the national picture was unclear as the party at the Sheraton wrapped up, gave the night an odd feel. At least, that’s the impression one got in the press section of the ballroom where, for the first time in my brief and checkered career, the media were restricted from mixing with the rank-and-file partiers by a velvet rope and a well-built security guard. It didn’t seem to reflect a commitment to open government, but it did put you in good position to be first out of the room and in line for the coat check.