Governor Spitzer will use last week's meltdown of end-of-session negotiations as the basis for a new assault on the Republican majority in the state Senate and its leader, Joseph Bruno, advisers close to the governor are predicting.
These advisers close to Mr. Spitzer, who is a Democrat, say last week's recriminations between Messrs. Spitzer and Bruno concerning the collapse in talks may be the prelude to a more open and caustic political battle over the fate of the Senate, which has been under Republican control since 1965 and under the leadership of Mr. Bruno since 1994.
In a strategic move that could dominate the second half of his first year in office, Mr. Spitzer is likely to intensify his fund raising and candidate recruitment effort to advance his goal of turning the Senate over to Democrats in 2008, advisers said.
The administration hopes to use the added political pressure on Mr. Bruno and his conference as leverage to force him to cooperate with the administration's agenda, including enacting tighter campaign finance rules. "The fourth man in the room is the fact that Bruno's majority is under siege," a top adviser to Mr. Spitzer said. The Republicans now hold 33 seats in the Senate to the Democrats' 29.
The escalation could begin as early as this week. Mr. Spitzer has plans to visit the local districts of a number of Senate Republicans and make speeches singling out the lawmakers for blame — a "shaming tour" similar to his trips around the state in February, during which he attacked Assembly Democrats for defying him by choosing one of their own members, Thomas DiNapoli, to fill a state comptroller vacancy.
Senate Republicans are hoping that last week's impasse, which sunk deals on a variety of major pieces of legislation, including a campaign finance overhaul, the approval of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, a discretionary capital budget totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, a new power plant siting law, and an overhaul of a costly public construction mandate, would serve as a bitter lesson to the governor about the penalties for threatening their majority.
After closing out the legislative session on Thursday, Mr. Bruno, in a conversation with a handful of reporters lashed out at Mr. Spitzer with some of his harshest language.
"He could have had one of the most productive years any governor ever had in this state in his first year," Mr. Bruno said. "He elected to go political. That's what happened. He went totally political. Politicized everything. Stopped governing and got obsessed with the politics of, I don't know, taking over. It's sad."
The 78-year-old leader offered advice to his 48-year-old adversary: "If you're spoiling for a fight you'll get one. But as a chief executive, getting into a fight doesn't get you a result. That's a transition that this governor hasn't made yet, and I hope he does."
Mr. Spitzer's strategy poses significant risk for a governor who has come under criticism from lawmakers, including members of his own party, for intemperate dealings with the Legislature.
By making a case against the Republicans and for electing Democrats into the Senate, Mr. Spitzer runs the risk of making the bicameral Legislature into a unified force that could counterbalance his own power, even if the broader public interprets his argument as an admirable call for more responsive government.
Many Assembly Democrats say the governor's furious reaction to their selection of Mr. DiNapoli hurt Mr. Spitzer by alienating lawmakers who could have been strong allies pushing for his agenda. Mr. Spitzer has since sought to repair his relationship by meeting with delegations of Assembly Democrats for a series of casual breakfasts in the governor's mansion.
The Democratic speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, a low-key politician who for the most part has stayed on the sidelines during the feud between the governor and Mr. Bruno, is urging the two leaders to get along.
"Everybody understands they are partners in government," he said on Thursday night. "They can't accomplish things without each other, and that's the way it has to work."
For Mr. Spitzer, the advantage that could be gained through a Democratic takeover in the Senate is hard to resist.
The administration hopes that once in power, Senate Democrats, who have been the governor's most loyal base of support in the Legislature, would fast-track legislation that is now blocked by Republicans and give him an edge in negotiations with the Assembly. Some political observers say, however, that an empowered Democratic conference enjoying the resources of majority status would no longer be as dependent on the governor for fund raising and organizational assistance and therefore would become less accommodating.
In interviews, top Spitzer administration officials said the governor's combative relationship with the Senate hasn't prevented him from chalking up successes in his first six months.
They cite as examples legislation overhauling the workers' compensation system that is expected to raise weekly benefits while saving businesses more than $1 billion in costs once the new rules are implemented; the enshrinement of a new school aid formula that directs more money to lower-income districts; an ethics package that prohibits gifts from lobbyists, and a restructuring of Medicaid so that state dollars flow more directly to patients instead of hospitals.
"It's not the job of the governor to be liked," said Martin Mack, a former mayor of Cortland who worked under Mr. Spitzer for eight years when the latter was attorney general and is now the governor's deputy secretary for intergovernmental affairs. "He certainly doesn't spend his time deciding what he should or shouldn't do so they'll like him or not like him."
Mr. Mack said the governor was "bringing the same philosophy" to issues like campaign finance laws that he brought to his investigations of Merrill Lynch and other Wall Street firms.
He said the governor is emphasizing the "need to make these structural changes. Does it make people unhappy? Yes, it does make people unhappy. Those people, more than anything, object to the fundamental structural change, whether it's health care, whether it's education… election reform, or ethics."
A senior Spitzer official on Friday said the implosion of negotiations last week demonstrated the difficulty of working with Mr. Bruno and Republicans, who were resistant to the governor's campaign finance proposal while trying to secure from the governor hundreds of millions of dollars in discretionary capital funds.
"We knew our own mind. We knew exactly how far we were willing to go and no further. We knew our opponent's mind. We knew what it would have taken to get a deal done. There's no sense this morning of buyer's remorse," the official said. "They thought we would be willing to … give away the store when it came to spending. In return for that, we would get something that wouldn't be meaningful campaign finance reform."
Said the official: "They will come around on at least some of the issues. They won't like the perception that they have blocked progress. It requires at some level a willing partner."