How the Spitzer Sex Scandal Could Help Joe Bruno


The resignation of Governor Eliot Spitzer could be the best thing that ever happened to Joe Bruno.

Bruno, the Republican State Senate majority leader, is hanging on to his lead over the Democrats in that body by just one vote, having just recently seen his candidate defeated in an upstate special election. Democrats have been counting on taking over the State Senate this year, and they expected to need only one seat to do so. Any ties in the State Senate would be broken by the lieutenant governor, in this case Democrat David Paterson.

Should Spitzer resign over his involvement in the Emperor’s Club prostitution scandal Paterson would be appointed as his replacement. That would leave Bruno to serve in the capacity of lieutenant governor, and the New York State constitution offers no mechanism to appoint any replacement. In effect the tie-breaker would be gone, and Democrats would face the more daunting task of taking over two seats to achieve a State Senate majority before 2011.

“In case of vacancy in the office of lieutenant-governor alone, or if the lieutenant-governor shall be impeached, absent from the state or otherwise unable to discharge the duties of office, the temporary president of the senate shall perform all the duties of lieutenant governor during such vacancy or inability,” reads the provision in the State Constitution regarding vacancies for lieutenant governor.

There is no way to replace the lieutenant governor in New York, and Paterson’s ascension would give Bruno more breathing room to hold his fading majority, said Alan Chartock, professor emeritus at University of Albany and a noted commentator on New York State government. Chartock said that he had once asked Paterson if he would be interested in taking Senator Hillary Clinton’s seat in Washington should she be elected president, and Paterson referenced the loss of his tie-breaking vote.

“He said, ‘not if we’re ahead by one vote,’ for exactly that reason,” said Chartock.