Governor Paterson announced that he’s appointing former MTA chairman Dick Ravitch as lieutenant governor in a press conference this afternoon. Paterson hopes to break the 31–31 stalemate in the State Senate by doing so, as the lieutenant governor also serves as president of the body and can cast a tie-breaking vote. The announcement will almost definitely set into motion a series of legal and political objections, as many skeptics think Paterson doesn’t have the right to appoint someone. Ravitch, for his part, is a longtime public servant here in New York, having run the MTA for four years as well as the state’s Urban Development Corporation. Playing this role would be a personal victory for him, as he has never held elected office. This questionable appointment is far from an “election,” but on the off chance it works, it will give him authority over former foes like Pedro Espada (who covets the Senate president seat), Carl Kruger, and Ruben Diaz Sr. — all three of whom gutted his proposal to save the MTA by taxing the East River bridges earlier this year. You can bet it’s not lost on Governor Paterson that the “Three Amigos” will steaming mad over this move.
During the press conference, Paterson listed the programs and local finances that have been crippled by the State Senate’s inaction, and defended his own efforts to get the body working again. “If I became incapacitated, if something happened to me, it is not known who would be governor!” he added.
“The state Constitution gives me the explicit power of appointment in cases of vacancies of office. There is nothing in Constitution or law that says I cannot fill the vacant post of lieutenant governor.” Of course, even he called the move “unprecedented.” Ravitch would not run for election in 2010 if his appointment is accepted. “I am aware that I am not the final arbiter of legal issues,” Paterson said, asking that any legal challenges be handled “expeditiously.”
“This is the right thing to do,” he finished. “I have no doubt of that.”
Earlier: Constitutional Experts, Democratic Assemblyman Warn Paterson
This post has been modified from its original version to include comments from the governor.