Maybe this time New York will actually clean up its mess
Because Paterson got called up to the majors, his old position, lieutenant governor, was immediately filled on a temporary basis. Paterson's first acting lieutenant governor was state Sen. Joe Bruno (R), until Bruno stepped down a few months later. The following January, Bruno was indicted on eight federal corruption charges and later convicted on two (though that conviction was overturned).
Bruno was replaced as lieutenant governor by the new state Senate president, Dean Skelos (R). He served until the end of the year. In 2015, Skelos was charged by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara with multiple corruption counts and ended up going to prison.
Skelos was replaced by Malcolm Smith (D), who again got the position due to his serving as state Senate president. Smith was arrested on corruption charges in 2013.
Smith was booted from his leadership position in the state Senate in June 2009, with Pedro Espada Jr. (D) replacing him (following a truly wild periodin New York state politics that is beyond the scope of this article). Espada was indicted in late 2010 on federal charges of embezzlement and theft.
Paterson’s final lieutenant governor, one appointed by Paterson (though it wasn’t clear if he was allowed to), served through the end of Paterson’s term in 2010. Paterson, remember, was serving out Spitzer’s term and planned to run for governor himself in the 2010 election — but facing allegations of corruption, dropped out of the race. He was later fined more than $60,000 for taking Yankees World Series tickets and then lying about it under oath. With Paterson out, the field was cleared for Andrew M. Cuomo (D) to run. Cuomo won and then was twice reelected. But his third term will terminate prematurely, ending in two weeks after a detailed investigation from the attorney general’s office — an office run at different points by him, Spitzer and Eric Schneiderman (D), who resigned in disgrace in 2018 — alleged that he’d harassed or groped 11 woman.
It’s very important to understand that this truly impressive galaxy of alleged and demonstrated impropriety is just a taste of what goes on in New York state politics. In 2018, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle listed the legislators who’d been convicted that year alone; it included seven people. A few years ago, in the midst of a number of corruption allegations including some of those listed above, the governor put together a commission meant to uproot public corruption. But the commission was itself hobbled by constraints imposed by that governor — Cuomo — before being shut down by him, one of its few achievements being tepid recommendations for updating ethics rules.
(After Cuomo shut down the commission, Bharara sent letters to its members demanding they preserve related material. According to new reporting from the New Yorker's Ronan Farrow, that prompted Cuomo to call the Department of Justice to complain about Bharara's line of questioning, triggering concerns by the Obama administration that he was seeking to improperly influence a possible investigation.)
New Yorkers who pay attention to politics are familiar with all of this, at least in the abstract. There have been any number of articles written from both the left and the right demanding that the state fix its own problems, particularly before it casts aspersions at others. When Georgia passed a new law constraining voting access after the 2020 presidential election, a number of conservatives (including Georgia’s governor) suggested that Democrats should focus instead on fixing New York’s voting restrictions. And they had a point. New York’s frustrating system for registering to vote is a recurring annoyance for voters, though a useful stumbling block for political parties. New York City’s process of managing elections is a mess, as the city demonstrated with great panache during this year’s mayoral election. (Even before that bungled mess, the New York Times reported in detail on the “decades of nepotism and bungling” at the city’s elections board.)
Part of the problem is the still deeply ingrained party system in the state and the city in particular. There are ways things are done that preserve power for parties and, by extension, party officials, and those officials are energetically uninterested in changing things. Gone are the days of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall but there remain some mini-Tammanies, mostly Democratic, still lingering around the five boroughs. It has weakened, as evidenced by the success of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), for example, but the inertia of status quo retains an allure.
At the end of the month, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) will take over. (In April, 7-in-10 New Yorkers said they didn't know enough about her to have an opinion.) She'll serve out Cuomo's term, which runs through next year and, in a fitting twist given the reason Cuomo is leaving, will be the state's first woman governor.
If she’s looking to put her stamp on the history books, I can think of an issue that could use some attention.