The Spitz list

Self-professed “steamroller” Gov. Spitzer got steamrolled last week by Assembly Democrats who chose one of their own to become state Comptroller — but the Governitzer went on the offensive by lambasting some of the lawmakers in their own districts.

He called one upstate Assemblyman “one of those unfortunate members who just raises his hand when he’s told to do so” — so we wondered, would the new governor go after our hand-raising Assemblymembers in Brooklyn?

We asked our lawmakers what they thought about the governor’s slash-and-burn approach and why they either voted for the Assembly’s choice Tom DiNapoli, or Martha Stark, one of three candidates nominated by a specially empaneled selection committee.

To a man (or woman), the pols defended their choices and complained that Spitzer wrongly tried to interfere with the legislature’s constitutional authority to fill the comptroller vacancy.

Lawmaker Who he/she voted for Comment
AssemblymanJim Brennan(D–Park Slope) Tom DiNapoli “I’ve known DiNapoli for 20 years. He is a talented veteran lawmaker and fully qualified to be comptroller. I voted my heart and my mind. No one pressured me to do anything. The primary function [of comptroller] is to be a watchdog over the executive branch. … If the governor wants to attack me, he has a right to do it. It’s a free country. I’m happy to defend my position. It’s an honorable position. I believe he interfered with the process for his own political reasons. The governor needs to mature as a leader.”
AssemblymanAlec Brook-Krasny(D–Dyker Heights) Tom DiNapoli “Our job was to elect a person who was independent of the executive branch. There is a reason why the Constitution was written the way it was written. The main auditor of state agencies needs to be independent. For 30 years, I lived in the former Soviet Union, where the main feature of the dictatorship was the superiority of the executive branch. That frightens me. I like the governor very much, but in this case, the executive branch was interfering with our constitutional obligation. If he comes into my district, I’ll say the same thing.”
AssemblymanWilliam Colton(D-Bensonhurst) Tom DiNapoli “I have a constitutional responsibility to vote for the most-qualified candidate, and that was Tom DiNapoli. The comptroller must audit state agencies, which is why the state Constitution delegates the authority to the legislature to select a comptroller when there’s a vacancy. If the governor [lambasts me in my district], I’ll say I fulfilled my constitutional responsibility to pick the most-qualified candidate and an independent comptroller.”
State Sen. Marty Connor (D–Brooklyn Heights) Martha Stark “I voted for Stark because she was well qualified and a Brooklyn resident and would be a great comptroller. If that’s how the governor wants to operate, that’s his choice.”
AssemblywomanJanele Hyer-Spencer(D–Bay Ridge) Tom DiNapoli “I sat through all of those hearings, as the voters expected me to do. I have to tell you, looking at every candidate, Tom DiNapoli was truly the best. I know we agreed to the [task force] process, but the governor has mischaracterized it. We agreed to a process to let him make suggestions, but by no stretch of the imagination did we ever agree to a process that would abrogate the Constitution. What’s so offensive to me is that I got a letter from the governor telling me I would pay the price [if I picked DiNapoli]. … The governor is wrong. We didn’t rubberstamp [Speaker Sheldon] Silver’s choice. I never expected this out of a governor who is a reformer. I thought he’d want us to make the best choice for the state of New York.”
AssemblymanHakeem Jeffries(D–Prospect Heights) Tom DiNapoli “Everyone needs to take a deep breath, pause and get back to the business of reforming New York State government and passing laws that benefit our constituents. The panel agreed to come up with five recommendations in exchange for the legislature abdicating its constitutional authority to select the comptroller. The panel then, deliberately it seems, came back with three, thereby breaching our agreement. That entitled the legislature to open up the process to find the most-qualified candidate. … DiNapoli was the best candidate. … We needed someone independent of the executive branch who could protect the taxpayer.”
AssemblywomanJoan Millman(D–Cobble Hill) Martha Stark “I’m not happy with what the governor is doing. He may be unhappy with how the majority of Democrats voted, but they are fellow Democrats. He’s just picking on Democrats in their home district and some of them worked hard for his election. He’s squandering political capital. Martha has an outstanding record and has experience running a huge agency. This was not a vote for the governor or against the speaker, but merely for someone I think was highly qualified.”
State Sen.Velmanette Montgomery (D–Park Slope) Martha Stark “This is really high-level, testosterone politics. I voted for Stark because she is extremely bright and highly qualified. And she is from Brooklyn and an African-American/Latina. Her election would have been tremendously important symbolically.”
State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Bensonhurst) Martha Stark “The legislature should not have entered into a deal on how to do the selection process, but where I come from, once the deal was made, you live up to it. Martha Stark presented a level of experience that made her a better choice. The governor is a very passionate individual who believes, rightfully so, that he was elected with a mandate to shake up Albany. But he’s not stupid. He knows he needs to get a budget passed, so he’ll recognize that [he needs to calm down].”