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The Multiple-Eliot Problem

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Spitzer is here to participate in a ritual he’s performed almost every day, in every corner of the state, since officially announcing for governor in December 2004: accepting an endorsement from a mainstream political group. Teachers, health-care workers, sheriff’s deputies, carpenters, firefighters, sheet-metal workers, clergy, mayors, gays, blacks, abortion-rightsers, environmentalists . . . And then there are the endorsements, just as plentiful, that have come in the form of checks from lobbyists, developers, and Wall Street players.

After accepting the latest seal of approval, Spitzer exits to cheers and backslaps, then spends a few minutes in the building lobby shrewdly dodging reporters’ questions about what he’d do at ground zero. Back in the union hall, behind closed doors, the membership is voting to authorize a strike when their contract with residential-building owners expires April 20.

The trouble with endorsers is that they tend to want things when their candidate wins. “People know me well enough to know an endorsement doesn’t give any additional persuasive capacity next January when it comes to policy,” Spitzer says. “[Unions] have endorsed me because I’ve been standing up more generally for working men and women. It isn’t just the Wall Street cases. Take today’s H&R Block case. Quite frankly, the membership of [32BJ] is probably the demographic that H&R Block was preying upon: taking lower-income individuals and putting them into an investment that stripped them of the marginal savings they’ve been able to make. It’s a philosophical alignment—I understand the problems and share a worldview.”

Where Spitzer sees a confluence of philosophy, skeptics see pandering to voter-rich blocs of minorities and seniors. Spitzer has been careful to preserve the integrity of his cases as attorney general, but those pressures are small compared to what he’ll face if he wants to be an independent governor. Then again, if he can make nice with Schumer after years of friction, maybe Spitzer really is capable of revolutionizing Albany from within.

“Chuck and I get along great!” Spitzer says. “Couldn’t you tell from the body language? We were just about hugging each other.” Just about.

E-mail: Chris_Smith@nymag.com.


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