Bill Mulrow, the down-to-earth public-private finance whiz, will be the first of — count 'em — seventeen hopefuls testifying in Albany today and tomorrow in hopes of filling Alan Hevesi's sullied shoes as state comptroller. But as Mulrow was preparing his opening remarks last night, he was also planning to address questions that have been raised about his former employer, Gabelli Asset Management, a Rye-based mutual-fund company that has been plagued by recent scandals, investigations, and a $100 million shareholder lawsuit.
A campaign adviser to his close friend Eliot Spitzer, Mulrow has a polished resume and is widely considered by politicos to be the Spitz's top choice to replace Hevesi, especially because of Mulrow's private-sector experience. But there are many — including some of his competitors for the gig — who want to know what funds he worked on while serving as a senior vice-president at Gabelli and about his association with his embattled former boss, the charismatic and well-known money manager Mario "Super Mario" Gabelli.
Noon today was the deadline for state-comptroller candidates to file their papers, and so far there are nineteen contenders. (This being Albany, rules are merely a suggestion: There are several back-channel ways candidates who didn’t file today could still emerge.) The list is deep in talent — city finance commissioner Martha Stark, private money manager Alphonse Fletcher, Long Island eminence Jim Larocca, and Westchester assemblyman Richard Brodsky are only a few of the contenders who would do the job well — but the inclusion of one name instantly produces a front-runner and makes the race more intriguing: Bill Mulrow, the director of CitiGroup’s Global Capital Markets. Mulrow both takes the lead and stirs the pot for the same reason: He's very close to Governor Eliot Spitzer. Mulrow will be criticized for his role at the company that’s the leading bidder to take over New York’s horse-racing industry, and Spitzer will be criticized as an ethical hypocrite for encouraging the candidacy of a big-money pal. But given Spitzer’s momentum and luck so far, the guv’s friendship with Mulrow is likely to be a net positive — and the single biggest thing that breaks Mulrow out of a crowded field. —Chris Smith