Thursday, October 23, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: The Least Interesting Job in the World

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Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy last night confirmed to the New York political world what was long expected: he's not going to be on Andrew Cuomo's ticket this fall.

There has been a little bit of speculation: Did Duffy jump or was he pushed? But agreeing to take the job of lieutenant governor is usually a little bit of both; the officeholder is quickly shoved to the side by his or her running mate when they both take office.

Think of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' marginalized Vice President Selena Barnes in "Veep" -- but set that frustrating scenario in glamorous Albany and that's what you're basically getting when you're the state's lieutenant governor. When you're not waiting for a phone call that never comes in the State Capitol, you're being dispatched to sleepy places like Utica, Jamestown, and Ogdensburg to talk up the agenda of your boss.

Cabin fever often sets in – with two lieutenant governors becoming second-tier Shakespearean characters and running against their bosses in acts of political betrayal. Mary Anne Krupsak went rogue on Gov. Hugh Carey in 1978 and unsuccessfully challenged him in a Democratic primary – while Betsy McCaughey Ross redefined the word rogue by switching parties on George Pataki and losing in a Democratic primary to Peter Vallone in 1998.

As far as most governors are concerned, the best lieutenants are the quietest ones. Mary Donohue, anyone? Stan Lundine? They should get a lifetime supply of Ritalin for serving two terms and successfully getting out of the way of George Pataki and Mario Cuomo, respectively.

There are quasi-success stories in the job – Richard Ravitch was appointed to the position by David Paterson and actually was given things to do in his year-and-a-half in the job. Besides likely being the only lieutenant governor to be sworn in at Peter Luger's steakhouse, Ravitch was dispatched to break any tie votes in the State Senate and clean up the state's budgeting process. But after Paterson essentially rejected his fiscal recommendations, Ravitch lamented: "The truth of the matter is I don't feel I accomplished anything ."

The job has been a successful launching pad for two of its recent occupants. Mario Cuomo did indeed succeed Hugh Carey after Carey decided not to run for re-election in 1982. And after Eliot Spitzer imploded in spectacular fashion in 2008, Paterson took over and then imploded in slightly less-spectacular fashion, showing that the job of lieutenant governor isn't important until it is.

Finally, there's Malcolm Wilson, who toiled in Nelson Rockefeller's shadow for 15 long years before taking the reins for a year when Rocky decided to resign in 1973. Although he held statewide office for more than a decade, Wilson was rejected by voters in 1974 for Carey. The consolation prize? A bridge – the Tappan Zee -- was renamed after him. Not surprisingly, it's being replaced.


Bob Hardt

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Connect with the ItCH

• Get an e-mail each day when the ItCH is published by subscribing to our ItCH alert.
• Follow Bob Hardt on Twitter @bobhardt.
• Send your comments to insidecityhall@ny1.com.
 
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