Splitting the Ticket


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Subtitled "New York Should Separately Elect Lieutenant Governors," this February 2010 monograph was written by Joshua Spivak, research fellow at Wagner College's Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform.

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Splitting the Ticket

  1. 1.   SPLITTING THE TICKET: NEW YORK SHOULD SEPARATELY ELECT LIEUTENANT GOVERNORS JOSHUA SPIVAK Research Fellow, The Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College . Research and publication was assisted with a grant provided by Consolidated Edison, Inc. The Hon. Jerome and Helene Berg Public Policy Papers on Government Reform Issue no. 7 February, 2010 Published by the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College Staten Island, New York Dr. Seymour P. Lachman, Director
  2. 2. Splitting the Ticket:  New York should separately elect Lieutenant Governors SPLITTING THE TICKET: NEW YORK SHOULD SEPARATELY ELECT LIEUTENANT GOVERNORS JOSHUA SPIVAK Research Fellow, The Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform At Wagner College The position of New York’s Lieutenant Governor has never enjoyed as much publicity as in the last two years. When Governor Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign, David Paterson became the first Lieutenant Governor in nearly 35 years to move up to the top position. The absence of a sitting Lieutenant Governor then became a critical source of friction in the divided Senate, where Democrats and Republicans have fought for the title and perks of the majority party. That was followed by the unelected governor appointing Richard Ravitch to Lieutenant Governor, which led to a court battle and a major New York State Court of Appeals ruling affirming that New York’s Governor possesses this power. Yet these unusual circumstances will probably be only a temporary blip in the otherwise dismal history of New York’s second in command. While the selection of Ravitch has been praised for bringing “enormous credibility” to an embattled administration,1 these developments will not gain future Lieutenant Governors any respect or power. While a deadlocked Senate could once again thrust a Lieutenant Governor into an actual position of power, its major role will remain, in the words of David Paterson, “to wake up very early and call the governor’s private line. If he answers go back to sleep, your work is done.”2 This is a shame. Having the Lieutenant Governor as a political non-entity is both a waste of a valuable position and a potential danger. It is a waste, because the Lieutenant Governor is one of only six state-wide elected positions. He or she is the only one that has no real power. In the right hands, and with just a little bit of freedom, the Lieutenant Governor position could actually be a positive force in government. More importantly, the lack of respect for most Lieutenant Governors is an ongoing danger because governors frequently leave mid-term, be it for another elective or appointive office or because they found themselves in some serious trouble. In fact, despite being elected to hold a four year term, Governors across the nation can’t seem 1 Michael Saul, “Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch Please Clean Up Mess in Albany, says Gov. David Paterson,” New York Daily News July, 9, 2009 2 Geoffrey Gray, “Gov. Nice Guy,” New York Magazine, October 5, 2008. 1
  3. 3. Splitting the Ticket:  New York should separately elect Lieutenant Governors to get out of the State House fast enough. Some are appointed to other offices, like former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, now the Ambassador to China, or Secretary of Homelan Security Janet Napolitano, former Arizona Governor. Others, most notably Sarah Palin, recently resigned. In less than four years, the tri-state area, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, had all three of their governors depart thanks to scandals. Facing the reality that Governors do at least occasionally leave for other positions, the Lieutenant Governor should be a qualified and competent person, one who is kept in the loop and ready to take over at a moment’s notice. But in New York, this has not been the case. While candidates for Lieutenant Governor of New York are chosen in a primary, and occasionally there is an upset,3 what usually happens is that if there is a strong gubernatorial candidate, either a sitting governor or one who has the nomination locked up, the gubernatorial candidate will push his or her own Lieutenant Governor choice on to the party. And many of the gubernatorial hand-selected candidates have clearly been chosen as running mates solely on the basis of appeasing a select interest group. Lieutenant Governors are generally used to shore up a weakness on the electoral ticket. Governor George Pataki is believed to have chosen two women, including Betsy Ross McCaughey to his regret, simply to bridge the Republican Party’s disadvantage with female voters. While Eliot Spitzer chose an actual high ranking and long serving public official, the state Senate Minority Leader, he might have been just as interested in the fact that David Paterson is a minority and from a politically well connected family. Prior to his choosing Paterson, there was a major push to have Spitzer select another African-American, Leecia Eve, the daughter of a prominent Buffalo Assemblyman Arthur Eve, whose highest ranking job was as a member of Senator Hillary Clinton’s staff. 4 Other gubernatorial candidates, both on the winning and losing sides, have focused on expanding geographic diversity to the ticket, bringing aboard either an upstater or someone from Long Island to balance a New York-centered ticket. A look at these men and women shows a wide-range of differences in experience and personal history. Some of them have held prominent offices, like former Congressman Stan Lundine, but many share one common trait – they would never have been considered for the position if they were actually running for it. The end results speak loudest. As a group, Lieutenant Governors have a very poor record of ever winning another office. The last one to succeed in winning any elective office following his or her tenure was Mario Cuomo in 1982. Before Cuomo, we have to look way back to Herbert Lehman in 1932. In that time, only Malcolm Wilson, 3 In 1982, Carl McCall, Mario Cuomo’s choice for Lieutenant Governor lost to Alfred DelBello (who was Ed Koch’s primary running mate). A similar event occurred in 1998, when Brighton Town Supervisor Sandra Frankel defeated Plattsburgh Mayor Clyde Rabideau, Democratic candidate Peter Vallone’s personal choice. 4 Jonathan Hicks, “Lieutenant Governor Candidate Quits and Backs Spitzer,” New York Times, January 31, 2006 2
  4. 4. Splitting the Ticket:  New York should separately elect Lieutenant Governors Nelson Rockefeller’s long serving second and stepped up replacement, managed to gain his party’s nomination for Governor and only Joseph Hanley, who ran for the Senate in 1950, received a nomination for another important race and both lost these races. And right now, current polls reveal an uphill battle for the current Governor, David Paterson. Yet, this failure goes unnoticed. In fact, the only reason that the Lieutenant Governorship is back in the news is because of its one substantive role – presiding over the state Senate and breaking ties. The news surrounding the Senate and court battles over the law allowing the appointment of a Lieutenant Governor in case of a vacancy is the only reason the position got back in the news. At that time, there were a number of proposals to change the law and allow the Governor to appoint a Lieutenant Governor, a position that the New York Court of Appeals decided that the Governor possessed. That plan would have solved the immediate succession crisis that a vacancy would create, but it is still not bold enough for today’s political problem. What New York State needs to do is rethink the Lieutenant Governor position. What can be done to turn the job into a useful one? The best way would be to follow 18 other states and split the ticket, allowing voters to directly elect Lieutenant Governors in the general election. For the state, this would actually be a return, since until 1953, New York had a split ticket. While the state only had two instances in the Twentieth Century of a Governor and a Lieutenant Governor being from separate parties,5 Governor Thomas Dewey pushed the legislature to tie the vote for the two positions together. What set Dewey off was a 1943 special election to fill the vacant Lieutenant Governor seat, which “engendered dismay in the executive branch because it raised a real possibility that the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor would be filled by individuals from opposing parties with incompatible political and policy agendas.”6 Undoubtedly, with his eye on the White House, Dewey did not want to have a Democratic Lieutenant Governor in position to succeed him. At the time, Dewey claimed, perhaps thinking of other states, 7 that having the two officials from opposing parties “has resulted in unnecessary strife and divisiveness.”8 However, Dewey’s position was not a universally held one. The Citizens Union opposed the measure9, and the minority Assembly Democrats solidly lined up against it, with Assemblyman Leonard 5 In 1924, Democrat Governor Al Smith served with Republican Lieutenant Governor Seymour Lowman. In 1906, Republican Charles Evans Hughes was paired with Democratic Lieutenant Governor Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler. 6 New York Court of Appeals decision, Skelos v. Paterson, 183opn09, p. 9 7 It’s worth noting that several famous Governors initially refused to take the seats in the Senate simply to prevent their successor Lieutenant Governors from moving into the Governor’s chair. Louisiana’s Huey Long is the most widely noted case. California’s Hiram Johnson, after his first Lieutenant Governor died and was replaced with a candidate not to his liking, also hesitated to resign. Spencer Olin, California's Prodigal Sons (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), 169 8 Douglas Dales, “Dewey Asks Speed on Joint Election,” New York Times, February 9, 1953. 9 “State Changes Opposed,” New York Times, January 25, 1953. 3
  5. 5. Splitting the Ticket:  New York should separately elect Lieutenant Governors Farbstein saying that the Lieutenant Governor would be a “tail to the Governor’s Kite.”10 The state voters had actually shot down a similar proposal in 1945 by nearly 10,000 votes, the only one of six referenda that was defeated in 1945.11 It is questionable whether the merger actually succeeded in accomplishing one of Dewey’s goals of heading off unnecessary strife. Two Lieutenant Governors, Hugh Carey’s Lieutenant Governor Mary Ann Krupsak and Pataki’s Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey Ross, ended their tenure by running against their Governors. Mario Cuomo’s Lieutenant Governor Alfred DelBello quit the job after complaining that he was given nothing to do. What is clear is that the job of Lieutenant Governor has become a backwater. And there would be a host of real improvements that could be brought forth if the state revitalizes the position by allowing the direct election of Lieutenant Governors. The most important benefit is improving the candidates who will serve in the position. The trial-by-fire nature of a modern campaign, in both the primary and general election, is a much better method of ensuring a seriously vetted candidate wins the office. Because there will be an actual race, candidates will receive the attention of both their opponents and the press for missteps and past indiscretions. They will also be forced to take actual policy positions, ones that will be examined and fought over. The electoral system is not perfect, but it is clearly more likely to weed out incompetents and neer-do-wells than the backroom method currently in place. The Lieutenant Governors elected under this system should be well suited to step up to the top job in case the Governor leaves. Serious candidates, either those with a strong public record or up-and-comers, will make a run for the position. Even without any power, the position is certain to draw a better class of candidates. Why? There is no shortage of politicians looking to move up in the world. Due to “the three-men-in- a-room” nature of Albany politics, neither the state Assembly or Senate are an appealing landing spot for politicians looking to get ahead.12 A state-wide platform gives them stronger name recognition for an eventual run for Congress, Senator, Governor or other high-ranked positions. The Lieutenant Governor would also have the potential to shake-up Albany. Even though there is little official power in the position, as one of the few state-wide elective offices, it will undoubtedly draw serious contenders. They will be able to make a name for themselves state-wide and set up and be prepared for running for Governor or Senator when a vacancy opens. We can be certain that an elected Lieutenant Governor will insert him or herself into policy discussions and political 10 Douglas Dales, “Joint Ticket Plan Passed in Albany, New York Times, February 10, 1953. 11 Douglas Dales, “Dewey Asks Speed on Joint Election,” New York Times, February 9, 1953. 12 See Seymour Lachman and Robert Polner, Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse, The New Press: New York, 2006. 4
  6. 6. Splitting the Ticket:  New York should separately elect Lieutenant Governors fights as often as possible. They would have good reason to not be too closely tied to the established powers in Albany. Instead, they will want to serve as the ombudsman that the state desperately needs. There won’t even have to be additional costs to the state. After all, taxpayers are already paying for a Lieutenant Governor staff that has historically had very little to do. Lieutenant Governors Across the Nation: The big question with such a proposal should be would it make it a difference. Though Lieutenant Governors are widely ignored by the media and the populace, a nation- wide examination of Lieutenant Governors shows the benefits of the separate election scenario. The following study will look at the success of a particular elected official can be judged by the Lieutenant Governor managing to garner his or her party’s nomination for a major post during or after their service.13 It will also examine how many candidates succeeded in winning another high office position.14 Some basic caveats: For the purpose of this survey, a Lieutenant Governor who steps up to the office of Governor due to death or resignation of the sitting Governor is only counted as succeeding if they have then garnered their party’s nomination for another office.15 Looking back at Lieutenant Governors elected in each state since 1970,16 we can see that separately elected Lieutenant Governor’s are more likely to go on to win their parties nomination for a higher office, either Governor, Senator or Congressmen.17 They are also more likely to gain their parties nomination for one of these three marquee positions than any Lieutenant Governors from same ticket states. 13 This survey had considered comparing the previous experience of Lieutenant Governor nominees. This was rejected, as there is no real way to make an effective distinction between the value of the experiences of many of the candidates (who were frequently drawn from the ranks of the state legislature). It should be noted that Alabama’s Lieutenant Governor Jim Folsom previously stepped up to serve as Governor. Georgia’s former Governor Lester Maddox also won the Lieutenant Governorship in 1970 after being term limited out of running for the top position. 14 It may seem logical (not to mention much easier) to simply judge the general election winners. However, the vagaries of electoral politics mean that many successful candidates will lose an election due to forces beyond their control. Therefore, winning a party’s nomination is a better method of examining the success of candidates. 15 It is not uncommon for the stepped-up Governor to lose. This happened to South Dakota’s Walter Dale Miller in 1994, Utah’s Governor Olene Walker, who was denied the Republican nomination for Governor in 2004, as well as Kansas’ Sheila Frahm, who was appointed Senator to fill Bob Dole’s seat in 1996, but lost the primary for the Republican nomination for the special election. None of these losing candidates are counted in the success category. 16 Any Lieutenant Governor elected in 1968 or 1969 (and not reelected) is not included. Since most gubernatorial elections are held in the mid presidential term, and since 1970 was a mid-term election, this seemed like a good place to draw a line. 17 There are several instances of a Lieutenant Governor being elected as Attorney General (in Maryland) or to a judgeship. These positions are not counted. 5
  7. 7. Splitting the Ticket:  New York should separately elect Lieutenant Governors Among the 43 States18 that have Lieutenant Governors, 25 elect their candidates on the same ticket as the Governor. Eighteen states have separate tickets.19 On average, same ticket states have chosen one more Lieutenant Governor in this span (about 8 per same ticket state, 7 for the separate ticket states). Three states with same ticket model scored a zero – meaning no Lieutenant Governors were able to gain a single nomination for the higher office position since 1970.20 Seven of the same ticket states have had only one Lieutenant Governor receive a nomination. On the other hand, only one of the separately elected lieutenant governor states has seen a shut out – Washington. Washington also has the distinction of having had only three Lieutenant Governors since 1957 (John Cherberg served as Lieutenant Governor from 1957 to 1989). Two of the 18 states had only one Lieutenant Governor garner a nomination for a major office.21 On the upper end of the spectrum, five same ticket states have had 4 Lieutenant Governors win a major nomination, while five separate election states have done the same. However, one of the same ticket states, Ohio, switched its model to same ticket in 1974. Illinois, which has had five Lieutenant Governors succeed in winning a nomination, including the current Governor Pat Quinn, who also switched from separate to a same ticket. In both states, Lieutenant Governors serving before then succeeded in winning their parties nomination. The two leading states in nominations both use separate elections. Virginia, which has a major caveat thanks to currently being the only state with a one-term limit for Governors, has had seven of its nine Lieutenant Governors go on to run for higher office. Idaho has had six. But it is the experience of Kentucky that truly brings home the point. In 1992, the Bluegrass state changed its constitution and moved from the separately elected Lieutenant Governor to a same ticket model. In the twenty-two years prior to the switch the state had five Lieutenant Governors succeed in winning a nomination for a higher office position. In the 18 years since, not one has succeeded in getting a nomination (though the current Lieutenant Governor is in a primary battle for the Senate nomination). 18 New Jersey just adopted a Lieutenant Governor position, and elected its first LG in 2010. It is not counted in any of the statistics. 19 On average, same ticket states have had more lieutenant governors than separate election states. 20 New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota (which had a Lieutenant Governor step up following a gubernatorial death, but then lose the primary). 21 Texas and Louisiana. It should be noted that observers claim that Texas’ Lieutenant Governor is actually a more powerful position than its Governor. Chris Suellentrop, “Is George Bush a ‘Weak Governor’?”Slate, January 5, 2000. See also John Aloysius Farrell, “Texas Governorship provides Bush with pulpit, not power,” Boston Globe, December 4, 1999. Texas has had only 5 Lieutenant Governors in the 40 year span. 6
  8. 8. Splitting the Ticket:  New York should separately elect Lieutenant Governors If we look at actual election victors, the numbers are stark. The Lieutenant Governors in11 of the same ticket model states have not won a single major election, versus only two of the separate election states. At the top of the ladder, five of the separate election states (including Kentucky) have three or more winning candidates. Only three of the same ticket states have exactly three winners. One of those three is Ohio, where Richard Celeste was the last separate ticket Lieutenant Governor elected in the state. If it would change to the separate ticket approach, New York would be going against the nationwide grain. Since 1974, four states have changed their method of election from separate ticket to same ticket. In 2008, Oklahoma debated a bill switching to the same ticket model. New Jersey, the latest state to add a Lieutenant Governor position, also went from no Lieutenant Governor to a same ticket model. This is not a surprise. State leaders, especially governors, have good reason to prefer the same ticket method. It allows them to control the process. But it does not benefit the voters. Arguments Against Separate Election: There are a few basic arguments that are cited in favor of the same ticket model and used against a separately elected Lieutenant Governor: First is Governor Dewey’s reason, that having an oppositional Governor and Lieutenant Governor will cause strife in the Executive branch. Except for one critical point, this argument is not a strong one. The Lieutenant Governor simply does not have much power to begin with. Outside of presiding over and breaking ties in the Senate the Lieutenant Governor has nothing to do. What Dewey could have been referring to is the state law that passes power to the Lieutenant Governor once the Governor is out of state. There are plenty of cases of this problem.22 However, the reality is that the Lieutenant Governor rarely usurps power in that way when the Governor goes on a weekend sojourn. 23 In the age of telecommunications it is a foolish law, one that should be repealed. But prior experiences, and the experience in other states, show that it is not a major problem for Governors. A second point could be called “if it is good enough for the Vice Presidency of the US, than it should be good enough for the state.” While the value of both positions may be questionable, any comparison would be a false one. As opposed to the anonymous Lieutenant Governors, Vice Presidents are usually fairly well-known figures, almost all of whom have been elected or appointed to high office. Even the most criticized 22 Wallace Turner, “California’s Lieutenant Governor: An Adversary in Brown’s Shadow,” New York Times, May 15, 1979. However, this has not been a major problem in California. The Lieutenant Governor and Governor have been from different parties in 23 of the last 28 years. 23 “William Glaberson, “With Governors Away, Lieutenants Say they Won’t Play,” New York Times, August 11, 1996. 7
  9. 9. Splitting the Ticket:  New York should separately elect Lieutenant Governors candidates, such as Sarah Palin, John Edwards or Dan Quayle, have held a major office. For example, all but one first choice Democratic VP nominee since 1940 has been a sitting US Senator, and that one was a Congresswoman. 24 The last time the Democrats chose someone who wasn’t in Congress, a Governor or a Cabinet Members was in 1908. Similarly, in recent years, Vice Presidents have been very successful in moving up, by at least gaining their party’s nomination for the presidency. Seven of the last 11 vice presidents have been chosen as their party standard-bearer. Practically, of course, there is good reason to have the vice president on the same ticket and in the same party, namely a real fear of assassination. If the president and vice president are from different parties, there could be some voters who want to overturn the decision with a bullet. In addition to the obvious problem, the incoming president would be shrouded in controversy. We won’t have the same fear on the state level. While Governors do receive threats, it is simply not at the level of the presidency This hints at the major reason that people might oppose such a separate ticket for Lieutenant Governors: the fear that the Governor will resign, die or seek another elective or appointed office, resulting in a possible switch in control over the state’s executive branch to the other party. This is a real possibility, but it is not a substantive strike against a separately elected Lieutenant Governor. The voters are choosing a Lieutenant Governor from the other party well aware of that eventuality. They do point out a basic fact. There is one big loser in a separately elected Lieutenant Governor -- the Governor himself. Governors will lose the opportunity to blatantly pander to a perceived interest group with their pick. They will also have another official who they cannot control or really threaten with punishment. On the other hand, Lieutenant Governors will be threatening to take time and attention away from the Governor. And of course, if a Lieutenant Governor is from the other party, the Governor has constraints in his or her ability to jump at another race or job offer. The Governor could face the wrath of the people (or his or her party compatriots) for turning over the state government to the other party. But the voters are well aware of this. After all, they are the ones who chose to split their tickets. All of these are serious reasons for a Governor to oppose a separately elected Lieutenant Governor. But it is not the New York voters’ problem. In fact, the voters are the ones who will benefit. The state will have a serious battle-tested second waiting in the wings in case the governor departs. And any scandal facing the Lieutenant Governor is more likely to have been discovered in a primary or general election, something that rarely happens today. 24 Joshua Spivak, “The Ultimate Inside-the-Beltway Job,” Washington Post, March 7, 2004. 8
  10. 10. Splitting the Ticket:  New York should separately elect Lieutenant Governors THE HUGH L. CAREY INSTITUTE FOR GOVERNMENT REFORM at Wagner College Dr. Seymour P. Lachman Director Robert Polner Senior Research Associate Joshua Spivak Research Fellow Susan Rosenberg Administrator The Hugh L. Carey Institute For Government Reform at Wagner College conducts non- partisan studies and proposes ways to improve legislative and administrative effectiveness. Wagner College One Campus Road Staten Island, New York 10301 Tel: 718-420-4131 Seymour.lachman@wagner.edu www.wagner.edu 9