Before Governor Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation on Wednesday morning after being linked to a prostitution ring on Monday, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor, said stepping down was the only thing the governor could do.
“He built his career on ethics and reform, and it’s very hard for him to maintain the moral authority to lead given the situation,” Mr. Thiele, a Republican, said on Tuesday.
The governor announced yesterday he was giving up his office effective Monday, March 17.
The first-term Democratic governor, without mentioning specifics, admitted to wrongdoing and apologized to the public at a press conference Monday afternoon after news broke of his alleged transgressions. Investigators have said Mr. Spitzer ordered a prostitute from a New York escort service to meet him in Washington, D.C., last month.
Hours after the revelation, Republican State Senator Kenneth LaValle was hesitant to say whether the governor should resign. “Those decisions have to be based on whether he can continue to govern,” Mr. LaValle said.
Mr. Thiele said Tuesday that, based on former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s 2006 resignation, he expected the governor to hold off on resigning until he worked out a favorable deal with federal prosecutors handling the case.
In the lawmakers’ lounge in Albany, Republicans and Democrats alike were glued to the television Monday, according to Mr. Thiele. “The reaction really was shock and disbelief,” he said. “Certainly no one saw it coming.”
Mr. Thiele said he heard the news during a committee meeting. The room filled with chatter as word came over the attendees’ Blackberries. Initially, they thought it was a practical joke, he said.
Mr. Thiele said it would be very difficult for the governor to overcome the scandal because he had bad relations with both Republicans and Democrats in the State Legislature. “To say that relations between the governor and the legislature were contentious is an understatement,” he said.
State Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco had threatened impeachment if the governor did not resign.
The remainder of Mr. Spitzer’s four-year term will be served by Lieutenant Governor David Paterson.
“All public officials must be held to a high standard of conduct,” U.S. Representative Tim Bishop said in a press statement Wednesday. “New Yorkers need a governor whose full attention is on the important issues facing our state today.”
Mr. Thiele said Mr. Paterson may be that governor, describing the former senate minority leader as someone who is well respected.
Mr. Paterson released a statement yesterday, shortly after Mr. Spitzer’s resignation: “It is now time for Albany to get back to work as the people of this state expect from us.”
Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle agreed that the news could not have come at a worse time, as the assembly, senate and governor were trying to finish the budget by April 1.
Reactions were mixed in Southampton as residents voiced their opinions on the governor while going about their business in the village.
“What he does with his life is his own business,” said Terry, a North Sea resident who would only give her first name. Her first impression was that Mr. Spitzer should not resign.
“I don’t look at him the same way I did two days ago, that’s for sure,” said Vincent Mangano. “I don’t feel comfortable with him representing us.”
“I think he did wrong,” Southampton resident Phil Tierney said of the governor, adding, “We all make mistakes.”
Mr. Tierney said the press can sensationalize stories such as Mr. Spitzer’s, while it remains unclear what actually happened.