there are those who eschew the concept of fate, a guiding hand or higher power. but even if you believe only in statistical probability, politics in the big league is an awful game. we have elections in which out of millions of votes, someone prevails by just a few votes. by hook or by crook, there is just one winner.
david paterson is a child of privilege. he is african american, legally blind and has a brilliant mind. his father, basil, was once one of the most powerful players in new york politics. like so many, he seizes life, taking the hand that is dealt and playing it for all he's worth. he has had a lot of temptations along the way. there were many women, there were drugs and there were political sinecures. he made his way up to the state senate and the minority leadership. he is bright and funny and, because he learned it at his father's knee, he knows how to work people.
when eliot spitzer needed allies in the african-american community but also needed someone he could depend on, he picked paterson to run with him as lieutenant governor. the ticket won, spitzer self-destructed and paterson became governor in the worst economic times ever. on day one, he confessed all and nobody blinked an eye. then he had to tell the people of new york some very bad news. he had to cut, cut, cut, cut and his popularity began to slide. that's where we are now.
like paterson, andrew cuomo was born into a powerful political family. his father was a successful governor until the people tired of him. cuomo helped his father succeed and, terribly ambitious himself, grabbed the opportunity to run for governor. in his attempt to take on h. carl mccall, the first african american with a real chance to be governor, life smacked him across the face, and he never made it to the finals. the people were furious with him. mccall lost to pataki, and cuomo damaged himself with the african-american community. even now there are those who remember. he married into the kennedy clan, but the marriage dissolved in a hailstorm of publicity.
slowly, cuomo rehabilitated himself and eventually he saw the opportunity to run for attorney general. he eschewed his reputation for opportunism and brought case after case in the people's interest. his numbers continue to rise.
unlike paterson, cuomo has a relatively easy job. he doesn't have to balance a budget. he doesn't have to figure out how to play the hardest situation anyone has ever had to play in new york politics. he just does the people's business. but we know he wants to be governor. as we see his numbers continue to rise, we see paterson's numbers decline.
cuomo is playing it coy. will he run against paterson? he says no, but he leaves the door open. the two scions of political families are pushed by fate into a contest where there can only be one winner. if you are a betting person, now is the time to put your money on the table. the stakes are high. -- alan s. chartock is president and ceo of wamc/northeast public radio and an executive publisher at the legislative gazette.