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Spitzer Apologizes, Does Not Resign

Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-N.Y.) acknowledged in a very brief statement, Monday, that he had violated the obligations he had to his family and the public, though he offered no specific comments about a report that he was involved in a prostitution ring.

"I am disappointed that I failed to live up to the standard I set for myself," Spitzer said. "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."

Eliot Spitzer and Silda Wall Spitzer
Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his wife Silda Wall Spitzer at Monday's press conference. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Even though Spitzer did not address the idea of resigning, talk of him vacating the post ran rampant.

"The Governor of New York should immediately resign from office and allow the people of New York to pursue honest leadership. The American people are tired of corrupt and hypocritical politicians," said Republican Governors Association executive director Nick Ayers. "The Governor of New York is just another in the long list of politicians that have failed their constituents."

"Assuming all of the allegations are true, it would be very hard for him to survive, I believe," Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (D-Brooklyn) told washingtonpost.com's Ed O'Keefe.

O'Keefe also spoke with Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R), who said, "I think he has to resign. He took what was a tremendous promise and hope, and turned it into unbelievable regret."

Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, released a statement urging "caution and restraint" when considering Spitzer's future. "We have been closely following the unfortunate news coming out of New York today," said Daschle. "This is not the time to play politics, particularly as investigations are ongoing. Until all the facts of this case are known, we should all exercise caution and restraint."

The story first broke in the New York Times earlier this afternoon -- setting off a massive upheaval in the state capital as well as inside the Beltway.

Spitzer came into office in 2006 as one of the rising stars within the Democratic party. He cruised to a 70 percent win in the general election as no serious Republican dared stand up against the man who as New York's attorney general made a national reputation by busting white-collar crime across the country.

Spitzer's political fortune was already imperiled prior to this announcement thanks to his decision to back (and then pull back) a plan that would have granted drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants. (That same issue tripped up Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid earlier this year.)

A recent Siena College poll showed just 41 percent of New Yorkers had a favorable view of Spitzer while 46 percent viewed him unfavorably. Asked whether they would vote for Spitzer if he ran for re-election in 2010, 25 percent said they would vote to re-elect him while 50 percent said they would prefer another candidate.

Those numbers are sure to drop much further following this revelation but the full political fallout is harder to grasp at the moment.

In the short term, if Spitzer resigns his lieutenant governor -- David Paterson -- would take over. Paterson, who is legally blind, would become one of two African American governors currently serving (Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is the other). According to the state constitution he would serve the remainder of Spitzer's term, which lasts until 2010.

The longer term implications are much harder to grasp.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) publicly weighed a run for governor in 2006 before turning it down to run the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But, with his Senate seat up in 2010 would Schumer consider a run for post he clearly is interested in?

We'll keep updating the story as news warrants this afternoon.

Washingtonpost.com's Ed O'Keefe recently sat down with Spitzer during last month's National Governors Association conference in Washington.

Here is a partial transcript of Spitzer's full statement from Monday:

**************

GOV. SPITZER HOLDS A NEWS CONFERENCE, ALBANY, NEW YORK

MARCH 10, 2008

SPEAKER: GOV. ELIOT SPITZER, D-N.Y.

[*]

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SPITZER: ... that violates my -- or any -- sense of right and wrong. I apologize first, and most importantly, to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better.

I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good and doing what it best for the state of New York.

But I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.

I will not be taking questions. Thank you very much. I will report back to you in short order.

Thank you very much.

***************

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 10, 2008; 6:08 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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