The funhouse carnival that is Albany these days is, in my opinion, about ready to present us with another gift. Another unelected governor!
With Governor Paterson's poll numbers lower than a starlet's neckline at the Oscars' red carpet, I have a hunch he may be looking for the golden parachute real soon. And what will that bring us? A guy named Richard Ravitch.
All I know about Ravitch (and I do read up on these things, you know) is that he is based in New York City, headed up the MTA there during a strike-marred tenure in 1979, and also had a strike-marred stint as Major League Baseball's union negotiator. He appears to be too heavy. I hear he smokes too much and he has no middle name (really). And that is about it.
So how is he different from other lieutenant governors of our state? Not by very much. The list is a veritable rogues' gallery of familiar and unknown politicians dating way back to the formation of our state.
Let's take a look at some of these folks (the sequential number of their order comes after each name, whether they were acting or sitting lieutenant governors).
Cortland is named after Lt. Gov. Pierre Van Cortlandt (No. 1), and Broome County is named after John Broome (3). Malcolm Wilson (49) got the naming rights to the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Several of New York's No. 2s went on to become governor, such as DeWitt Clinton and Mario Cuomo. Several have local roots. Lt. Gov. Erastus Root (7) is buried in Delhi, John Tracy (11) is buried in Oxford, and Daniel Dickinson (13) was raised in Guilford.
Lt. Gov. Hamilton Fish (15) had a grandson who was the first of Teddy Roosevelt's famed Rough Riders to die in the Spanish-American War. John Robinson (24) received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Civil War, where he lost a leg in battle.
John Talmadge (6) had a daughter who was called "the most beautiful woman in the America." Lt. Gov. Stewart Woodford (22) had "the most beautiful mustache in America." His walrus drooped literally six inches below his chin.
Henry Jarvis (19) founded the New York Times. Edward Livingston's (10) grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence. Numbers 5 and 9 left barely a shadowy footprint in the halls of the Capitol in Albany, but, gosh, you have to admit, they had great names! Philetus Swift (5) and Enos Throop (9).
Almost all of the state's lieutenant governors during our first century are forgettable. Later on, the names start sounding at least a little familiar to us. Betsy McCaughey Ross (53) had never even met George Pataki when he named her as his running mate. Mary Anne Krupsak (51) was the first female lieutenant governor. David Paterson (54) the first African-American. Henry Selden (20) was the first with a beard.
I personally met two sitting New York state lieutenant governors. Ms. Krupsak (51) was an honoree at a SUNY Delhi event I participated in. And Stan Lundine (52) stopped by our radio station once several locations ago (on Market Street in Oneonta). Ms. Krupsak looked like one of SUNY's professors; Mr. Lundine looked like an office supply sales rep. Nice people, don't get me wrong, but certainly lacking of that aura, that certain glow that potential governors seem to carry with them (think the three-dimensional Al Smith, the messianic Franklin D. Roosevelt or even the chiseled iconography that was Nelson Rockefeller).
So who has the best story of any of these people? Well, remember, it is a lackluster job but not one for sissies. Thomas Wallace (47) contracted chicken pox from his kids and died. Edwin Corning (42) had both his legs amputated because of gangrene. And Lt. Gov. Martin Glynn (39) committed suicide. So who among these men (and two women) has the best story to be told?
I vote for Charles Poletti (45). He served as Herbert Lehman's lieutenant governor for just 29 days, the shortest term of them all. Gov. Lehman then resigned to join the U.S. State Department, and Poletti, an upstater, became our 46th governor. He died in 2002 just shy of his 100th birthday, the oldest living former governor in America. But the real "nugget" in the life of Lt. Gov. Charles Poletti took place when he was serving in the U.S. Army in Italy during World War II.
Col. Poletti's personal jeep driver and interpreter was the once and future "Don of Dons," the head of the largest criminal family in America, Mafia kingpin Vito Genovese!
Soon, space will have to be made for the next portrait in the Lieutenant Governor's Hall of Fame, Richard (no middle name) Ravitch!
I'll catch you in two"
'Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." He invites you to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/