Governor Spitzer, at the urging of his wife and one of his closest friends, is considering a major shake-up of key personnel, according to a source close to the governor.
The departure of Mr. Spitzer's director of state operations, which was announced late yesterday, could mark the beginning of a broader purge of advisers.
The governor's senior adviser, Lloyd Constantine, who has acted as a mentor to Mr. Spitzer since the latter was a law school intern, and the first lady of New York, Silda Wall, are advising him to part ways with longtime political aides as a way of demonstrating to voters a fresh start after a first year of embarrassing setbacks.
The emerging dynamic pits Mr. Constantine, a blunt-talking, wealthy antitrust lawyer, and the governor's magnetic, Harvard-educated wife against the governor's chief of staff, Richard Baum, who has acted as Mr. Spitzer's second in command for almost a decade, and Ryan Toohey, who serves as his chief political operative.
A source compared Mr. Constantine's maneuvering to senior partners at a law firm reasserting control over younger, hotshot lawyers.
The tension is a reflection of what officials say is Ms. Wall's increasingly powerful role in the executive chamber, sources said. Ms. Wall, who runs a state volunteerism council and who has led initiatives to attract more talented and educated people to New York, has become more of a general adviser to her husband.
The move against Messrs. Baum and Toohey was described by a source as an effort to restrict Mr. Spitzer's inner circle to Ms. Wall, Mr. Constantine, and one or two other officials, including Mr. Spitzer's policy director, Peter Pope.
Pressed to choose sides, the governor has yet to make a move. "He's re-evaluating himself and the course that he's taking," a source close to Mr. Spitzer said.
Messrs. Baum and Toohey, a principal at the communications and polling firm Global Strategy Group who ran the governor's successful 2006 campaign, are the primary figures behind the governor's aggressive stance toward Senate Republicans, a strategy that won early praise from many Democrats who thought Albany needed fresh legislative leadership.
As Mr. Spitzer became ensnared by allegations that he orchestrated a political hit on the Republican Senate leader, Joseph Bruno, with the help of state police, the attack strategy has drawn increasing criticism from those who say it has stalled the governor's agenda while emboldening Republicans.
The allegations ultimately cost the job of the governor's communications director, Darren Dopp, who was the first major departure of the Spitzer administration.
Mr. Constantine, who joined the administration as a big-picture adviser responsible for several long-term projects, including a commission on overhauling public higher education, has recently become more of a day-to-day adviser.
In addition to being a tennis partner and former law partner, Mr. Constantine, an assistant attorney general under Robert Abrams, has long been perhaps the governor's most emphatic booster.
Ms. Wall, a North Carolina native who was a corporate lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom before founding a nonprofit group called Children for Children, traveled the state on behalf of her husband during last year's upbeat campaign.
Her husband has been open about her disappointment at the level of rancor in Albany.
"You know what she's been telling me?" Mr. Spitzer told the New York Times in July. "She looks at me and says: 'Do you really want this stuff? And do you want this for your kids and do you want them to see this stuff?' That's the hard part."
The reshuffling advocated by Mr. Constantine appears to be already unfolding. The governor's office announced yesterday the departure of its director of operations, Olivia Golden, whose job was to make sure that state agencies carry out executive chamber policy.
Mr. Spitzer appointed his budget director, Paul Francis, who came to Albany from a corporate and financial background, as her replacement and promoted Mr. Francis's first deputy, Laura Anglin, as the governor's top budget adviser.
Previous to her administration post, Ms. Anglin was a deputy state comptroller and a budget aide to the state Assembly.
Mr. Francis will assume the job on January 1, three weeks before the governor is to present his 2008-09 fiscal year budget proposal to lawmakers.
Mr. Francis, whose professorial and shy demeanor belies a ruthless work ethic, has steered clear from the administration's first-year imbroglios.
The exit of Ms. Golden, who arrived in Albany a few years after an embattled tenure as director of a child welfare agency in Washington, D.C., came amid embarrassing reports of communication failures between state agencies and the executive chamber.
In one incident, Mr. Spitzer was apparently unaware that his tax department had decided to order online retailers, such as Amazon.com, to collect local sales tax from New York customers. The governor immediately squashed the policy after its existence was reported in The New York Sun.
One official said Mr. Spitzer was looking for someone to crack the whip on the agencies and push "them harder to deliver on the governor's agenda."