ALBANY — After agonizing over the decision, Governor Spitzer will capitulate to the growing clamor for his resignation over his alleged link to a high-end prostitution ring and turn over the reins of power to Lieutenant Governor David Paterson as early as today, according to three senior aides.
Throughout the day yesterday, Mr. Spitzer, holed up in his Fifth Avenue high-rise apartment, teetered between surrender and defiance, with one of his closest associates pleading with him not to give up and with a large number of his aides urging him to protect his family and step down.
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The argument in favor of resignation ultimately prevailed and Mr. Spitzer, 48, conceded that Monday's stunning disclosure that he was a regular customer of a high-priced prostitution service, Emperors Club VIP, left him with no choice but to accept that his once-soaring political career had crashed, aides told The New York Sun under condition of anonymity.
Mr. Paterson, 53, a legally blind Harlem resident who was a minority leader of the state Senate, is set to become New York's first African-American governor and serve out the remainder of Mr. Spitzer's four-year term.
As of yesterday evening, the governor had no event listed on his public schedule today. He has been secluded in his home with his wife since Monday, when he offered an oblique and brief apology at his Manhattan headquarters for unspecified ethical violations.
Since then, New York's government has been in a state of suspended animation as lawmakers, lobbyists, and state officials awaited word on whether a humiliated governor would call it quits.
Mr. Spitzer, a married father of three teenage daughters, was counseled to step down by a number of his most senior aides, including the secretary to the governor, Richard Baum, and the director of operations, Paul Francis, according to a source.
One of Mr. Spitzer's closest associates and long-time friends, Lloyd Constantine, sought to convince the governor that he could weather the storm. Mr. Constantine, who earlier yesterday was forthright in saying that Mr. Spitzer had not made up his mind, seemed less confident hours later when he talked to the Sun.
"In terms of resignation, there's only one decision-maker on this, and it's not me, and it's not the press. It's the governor," Mr. Constantine said. "This is hard for him. He's feeling the weight of the gravity of the situation."
Sources said Mr. Spitzer was weighing the decision while confronting the possibility of criminal charges related to a federal probe that began as a tax inquiry into his finances.
While he was hunkered down in New York City, the governor seemed to be losing support in Albany. A watchdog group, Citizens Union, called on Mr. Spitzer to resign, a painful reproach from what used to be a loyal backer, while Assembly Republicans, who hold a minority of seats in the chamber, raised the specter of impeachment proceedings. A poll released yesterday showed that 70% of New Yorkers think Mr. Spitzer should resign.
The Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, didn't defend Mr. Spitzer but didn't abandon him either, saying, "It's up to the governor to do what's best for his family."
Said Mr. Silver: "I haven't seen him accused of anything. I haven't heard that he's standing accused of a crime or being prosecuted at this time."
A man identified as "Client 9," who is believed to be Mr. Spitzer, was caught on a wiretap arranging a secret rendezvous with a 105-pound brunette named Kristen at the Mayflower hotel in Washington, where "Client 9" checked in under the name of a Spitzer campaign donor, George Fox.
Mr. Spitzer allegedly spent $4,300 on the tryst. It's not clear what account the money came from. Several newspaper reports yesterday claimed that the governor had been meeting with prostitutes going back as many as 10 years, to when he was attorney general. It's also not clear whether Mr. Spitzer's state trooper bodyguards facilitated his meetings with prostitutes.
A source close to the governor said Mr. Spitzer and his wife of 20 years, Silda Wall, have spent the day in separate rooms in their apartment. They have emerged from their locations to speak jointly with Mr. Spitzer's lawyers.
"She doesn't want to look at him, and he doesn't want to bear the look that she gives when she does look at him," the source said.
Mr. Spitzer is represented by his former top deputy in the attorney general's office, Michele Hirshman, a partner in the litigation department of the firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Mr. Spitzer's indecision threatened to bring high-level budget negotiations to a standstill. In about a week, the Assembly and the Senate are supposed to begin hammering out a final budget deal. Lawmakers said yesterday they didn't know if they should negotiate with the Spitzer administration or Mr. Paterson's staff.
Administration officials yesterday denied that government was in a state of limbo. One deputy secretary noted that she had delivered a speech as planned. Other aides darted in and out of the long executive chamber corridors like a normal business day. At least publicly, explicit discussion of the governor's travails was taboo.
"People are not standing around the water-cooler talking about what happens next," Mr. Spitzer's director of operations, Mr. Francis, said. "They are working hard on the day-to-day issues of governing."
Around the Capitol, the shockwave of Mr. Spitzer's disclosure didn't completely stamp out normal activity.
High school and college students toured the statehouse with glazed eyes. The United Federation of Teachers and other interest groups remained faithful to their lobbying schedules and met with lawmakers. "We were able to get through 9/11; we're going to get through anything," the union's president Randi Weingarten said in an interview. "We're pretty resilient people."
Signs of disturbance were apparent. There were sheepish grins flashed by lobbyists and legislative aides. Camera crews seemed to have multiplied by several factors. Most striking of all was the absence of Mr. Spitzer and of Mr. Paterson, who spent the most of the day at his upstate residence near Schenectady.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said they anticipated that Mr. Spitzer would resign and said they looked forward to developing a relationship with a new administration.
"They're a lot of people who feel it will be a lot easier to deal with David Paterson," a Republican senator, Dale Volker, said. "He has always been a compromiser, and he has a good solid relationship with the Legislature."
A Democratic senator of Harlem, William Perkins, said Mr. Spitzer's downfall "could be a blessing in disguise." He said lawmakers "like David. We think we can get things done with David."
Said Mr. Volker: "The sky's not falling. This is a democracy. No one is above the law, even if you are the governor or anybody."