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Gov. or No, Ravitch Gains Power

All about New York’s second-in-command

Marc Tracy
March 01, 2010
Lieutenant Gov. Ravitch.(New York Times)
Lieutenant Gov. Ravitch.(New York Times)

As the scandal surrounding New York Gov. David Paterson’s alleged intervention in a longtime aide’s assault case continues to mushroom, the New York Times—the same paper that broke the scandal—takes a good long look at Lieutenant Gov. Richard Ravitch. If Paterson resigns, Ravitch would become the first Jewish governor of America’s most Jewish state in … almost two years. Which is a while, when you think about it! Almost half the time between now and the next Winter Olympics!

Even if Paterson doesn’t resign, though, his weakened position—among other things, he’s a lame duck, having announced he won’t run for re-election—only makes Ravitch more powerful. “He is widely seen as the only adult left in Albany,” the Times reports. Many Democrats, for example, are urging Paterson to make Ravitch the one in-charge of crucial, and unfailingly contentious, budget negotiations.

We learn a bit about Ravitch’s life: he’s a classic New York City éminence grise, ensconced in the especially Gotham power centers of real estate, politics, sports, and, yes, Jewish philanthropy.

Another of Ravitch’s prime assets is that nobody sees him as a threat because he has zero further political aspirations: as he says, “My disability is my strength. I’m not a candidate for anything.” The one time he was a candidate for something—the 1989 Democratic mayoral primary—he came in third. “Aides remembered him as a horrendous candidate,” we’re told, “always saying something impolitic when he wasn’t grossing people out by picking his ears.”

Which just goes to prove that old saying: those who can’t run for governor, become lieutenant governor; and those who can’t govern, become governor.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.