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Eliot Laurence Spitzer (born June 10, 1959) is an American lawyer, politician and the current Governor of New York. Spitzer was elected governor in the November 2006 election. He is the former New York State Attorney General, a member of the Democratic Party, and is married to Silda Wall Spitzer, the founder and chair of Children for Children, a non-profit organization. The Spitzers have three daughters.
Spitzer was born and raised in the affluent Riverdale section of The Bronx in New York City, by Austrian Jewish parents. His family was not particularly religious and Spitzer did not have a bar mitzvah. He is a graduate of Horace Mann School. With a score of 1590 on the SAT exam, Spitzer attended Princeton University, where he was elected chairman of the undergraduate student government, graduating in 1981. He scored a perfect score on the LSAT, and went on to Harvard Law School, where he met and married Silda Wall. Spitzer was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. One of Spitzer's classmates at Harvard Law School was Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's Mad Money, on which Spitzer has appeared or called in on three occasions.
Upon receiving his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, Spitzer clerked for Judge Robert W. Sweet in Manhattan, then joined the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He stayed there for less than two years before leaving to join the Manhattan district attorney's office.
In 1994, Spitzer put aside his private practice to concentrate on attaining the elected office of New York State Attorney General. He lost in the 1994 election but was successfully elected in the next election in 1998. He has since become one of New York's most recognizable Democratic politicians. On November 7th, 2006 he was elected Governor of New York.
Spitzer was elected Governor on November 7, 2006 with 69% of the vote. He faced Republican John Faso and John Clifton of the Libertarian Party of New York among others.
On December 8, 2004, Spitzer announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for Governor of New York in 2006. While long rumored, Spitzer's announcement was unusually early-nearly two years before the election. Some opined that Spitzer's early announcement was motivated by a desire to learn if Senator Charles Schumer, a more senior Democrat, would run. But Schumer, largely favored in opinion polls in a hypothetical matchup against Spitzer, had announced in November that he would not run for Governor, but would, rather, accept an offer to sit on the powerful Finance Committee and head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. After Schumer's announcement, Democrat Andrew Cuomo announced his plans to run for the Attorney General's seat vacated by Spitzer.
Spitzer won early endorsements, including, on January 22, the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which has purported to act as kingmaker of Democratic nominees. The party has been heavily backed by figures from community groups, e.g. ACORN and labor unions, particularly those that once broke from the AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win Federation. In the months after the WFP endorsement, several Change to Win unions announced that they were endorsing Spitzer under their own name, e.g. UNITE HERE, the Teamsters, and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
In the latter half of 2005, Spitzer sought to further solidify support for his campaign by touring the state, seeking and giving political endorsements. These included cross-endorsements with former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer in the 2005 New York City mayoral election, 2005; Matthew Driscoll in the Syracuse, New York, Mayoral election; and State Senator Byron Brown in the Buffalo, New York, Mayoral election. The benefits to Spitzer in these deals was the valuable media attention which accompanied his stumping for those candidates, as well as gaining local endorsements to help win the party primary.
As a result of Spitzer's relative speed in bringing state Democrats to his side, he gained the respect of Democratic leaders nationwide. Such a leader, Bill Richardson, dubbed Spitzer the "future of the Democratic Party" at a fundraiser held in June 2005 for Spitzer's gubernatorial campaign. A June 2006 Quinnipiac poll showed him leading Nassau county executive Thomas Suozzi 76-13 percent, indicating that he had all but secured the nomination.
Much of the attention of watchers of New York politics then turned to the state Republican Party, especially the future of three-term governor, George Pataki. Polling throughout 2004 and into 2005 consistently showed Spitzer defeating Pataki in theoretical match-ups. Such a scenario might have proved unappealing to Pataki. In July 2006, Pataki was rumored to be making overtures toward seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency in 2008. Whether or not these rumors were true, Pataki announced on July 27, 2005 that he would not seek reelection.
The open-seat nature of the election, along with Spitzer's positive poll numbers, and the advantage Democrats have in New York State fueled the Republican leadership's discussions of the active pursuit of candidates to run against Spitzer. By June 2006, two people had announced their intent to run for the nomination: former New York Assemblyman John Faso, who was officially endorsed at the 2006 New York State Republican Party Convention and former Masschusetts Governor William Weld, who is a native New Yorker. Shortly after the convention, Weld dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination.
An additional consideration for Spitzer was the status of billionaire businessman Tom Golisano, a three-time Independence Party candidate. It was rumored that Golisano might run again, and that Republican Party insiders would seek to nominate him as a Republican, thus fusing the Republican and Independence tickets for the first time in a gubernatorial election. Golisano recently switched his party affiliation to the GOP. However, on February 1, 2006, Golisano announced that he would not run for governor.
In January 2006, Spitzer selected New York State Senate minority leader David Paterson as his choice for Lieutenant Governor and running mate. In New York gubernatorial elections, the most important consideration in a gubernatorial candidate's choice of a lieutenant governor is often said to be the need to "balance the ticket", thereby widening the candidate's appeal by choosing someone from a different geographic area, ethnic background, or with a different political base. Such a practice is common in other states, as well as in Presidential elections.
After announcing his candidacy, Spitzer was endorsed by numerous New Yorkers including state Comptroller Alan Hevesi and two former New York City Mayors: David Dinkins and Ed Koch (who had endorsed President Bush in 2004). In February 2006, Spitzer got the endorsement of businessman Donald Trump, who had been courted by the Republicans to run against him.
On May 30, 2006, Spitzer and Paterson won the endorsement of the New York State Democratic party. He still, however, had to face Suozzi in the Democratic primary.
On July 25, 2006, he faced Suozzi in a gubernatorial debate held at Pace University in Manhattan, discussing issues such as public authorities and Medicaid.
Spitzer surprised many New Yorkers when, upon being asked about marijuana, he stated that he disagrees with medical use of marijuana since other medicines are more effective.
During the week of August 24, he and Suozzi participated in a cable TV "town hall" forum at Pace University. Spitzer actually participated from Rochester, where he was visiting as part of a campaign tour across the state.
In the Democratic primary held on September 12, 2006, Spitzer handily defeated Suozzi, securing his party's nomination with 81% of the vote.
On October 5, Spitzer, addressing the Empire State Pride Agenda, declared that as governor he would work to legalize gay marriage in New York.
Spitzer won a landslide victory in the election with 69% of the vote. It was the largest margin of victory in a gubernatorial race in New York history, and the second-largest for any statewide race in New York history. The only larger victory was Chuck Schumer's 71% victory in his successful reelection bid for the U.S. Senate two years earlier. Spitzer carried all but three counties in the state.
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