|NYSNYS NEWS: Spitzer MIA in Hall of Governors, 8 years after he became first in NY history to resign.|
|Spitzer portrait: The only formal portrait of Gov. Eliot Spitzer in the Capitol hangs in the LCA press room.|
NYSNYS NEWS: Spitzer MIA in Hall of Governors, 8 years after he became first in NY history to resign.
By Kyle Hughes
ALBANY, N.Y. (February 18) — Eight years after becoming the first governor to resign, Eliot Spitzer is still missing from the State Capitol’s Hall of Governors.
Spitzer, who quit after being caught up in a prostitution scandal, is one of only two of New York’s 55 former governors without a portrait in the history gallery. The other is Nathaniel Pitcher, who served as governor in 1828 after the death of DeWitt Clinton and was a Washington County judge and Assemblyman before being elected lieutenant governor. No known portrait of him exists.
Spitzer, 56, now faces a criminal investigation into allegations he assaulted a 25-year-old woman who has been described as a both a friend and an escort call girl. The woman summoned police with a 911 call on February 13 from the Plaza Hotel in New York City, where she was with Spitzer. She told hospital staff treating her for a cut that Spitzer choked her, then she gave police conflicting accounts.
Spitzer’s lawyer said he did nothing wrong, and the investigation appears to have been stalled by the woman’s return to her homeland of Russia. The woman in the case “has recanted any claim of an assault, and made it clear, in fact, that Eliot tried to assist her,” Spitzer spokeswoman Lisa Linden said in a statement Thursday. “We are confident that whoever looks at the facts will come to the same conclusion."
Meanwhile, the only portrait of Spitzer now hanging in the building is a oversized framed photo in the Legislative Correspondents Association pressroom. Tradition holds that each governor’s picture hangs prominently in the pressroom, before being moved to a less visible location when a new governor takes office.
The portraits of Spitzer and David Paterson, who was elevated to governor by Spitzer’s resignation and endured his own share of scandal, hang high on the wall in a corner of the LCA room. The two are in good company, just above portraits of former governors Franklin D. Roosevelt, who went on to become president, and Nathan Miller of Cortland, who served in 1921-22 as the last governor from upstate New York.
Paterson’s formal portrait hangs in the Hall of Governors next to Mario Cuomo and George Pataki, whose large likeness is modeled on a famous painting of George Washington.
Asked about the status of a Spitzer portrait Thursday, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “it's up to former governors to commission and choose a painting.”
Spitzer has given no hint of when a formal portrait may be forthcoming. Mario Cuomo waited two decades for a portrait, agreeing to an unveiling only after his son was elected the state’s 56th governor in 2010.
Spitzer has taken over his family real-estate business and gotten divorced since his resignation on March 17, 2008. He tried to run for New York City comptroller in 2013, but got scant support.
A Siena Poll taken then put his disapproval rating at 70 percent, poll spokesman Steve Greenberg said Thursday. He said Spitzer’s political career was likely over.
“One never says never, he is still a relative young man, he is only in his mid-50s, but I am hard pressed to see how he can effectively or successfully run for office in New York State at this time,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said that it would be appropriate for Spitzer’s portrait to be hung in the Capitol. “That’s just me personally as a political and government geek.”
If and when a Spitzer portrait does arrive at the Capitol, it will take a place next to governors whose records includes exemplary public service, controversy and scandal.
One of the most visually arresting portraits shows Gov. William Sulzer, the first and only governor to be impeached. “Elected governor with the support of Tammany Hall, he angered its leader, Charles F. Murphy, when he distanced himself from Tammany’s influence and supported primary elections,” the title card to the painting says. “With Tammany’s encouragement, the State Assembly voted to impeach Sulzer on October 17, 1913.”
Hanging nearby is a portrait of Gov. Charles Poletti, who drew national attention by issuing 40 pardons and commuting the sentences of 15 felons in the 29 days he served as governor in 1943. One of the commutations went to a “union leader of communist sympathies” who was in on a charge of “terrorism by arson,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Poletti later served as a U.S. Army military governor in Italy in World War II where he was accused of using Mafia boss Vito Genovese as an aide. Genovese had fled New York City for Sicily to escape a murder charge in the 1930s.
Right outside Cuomo’s office hangs a portrait of perhaps the most infamous governor in state history, Horatio Seymour, the last openly white supremacist to hold the office.
Seymour, a Utica lawyer and businessman, was a foe of Abraham Lincoln, opposed the Emancipation Proclamation, and endorsed the NYC Draft Riots of 1863 that saw a white mob take to the streets to kill black people and destroy property.
After the war, Seymour ran as the Democratic opponent to Ulysses S. Grant. His supporters used a memorable slogan on their campaign badges in 1868: "Our ticket, Our Motto: This is a White Man's Country; Let White Men Rule."
More info: The Hall of Governors on the second floor of the Capitol is open to the public for free tours daily. There is also a virtual tour online at http://www.hallofgovernors.ny.gov