Long Islanders with long memories may recall when Tom DiNapoli was still an 18-year-old teenager and became the youngest person in New York to win a school board seat. For years he served as an Assemblyman from Great Neck. Then in 2007 Comptroller Alan Hevesi resigned in disgrace, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proposed DiNapoli as his replacement because his reputation as a legislator was beyond reproach. Interestingly, the biggest opposition came from the Democratic governor at the time, Eliot Spitzer, who wanted someone else with more financial experience. Well, we know what happened to Spitzer (“Client No. 9”).
Now DiNapoli is running against a Republican with a real bona fide investment background, Harry Wilson, a former hedge fund manager. The savvy businessman won accolades for his work with the Obama administration in bringing General Motors back from the brink of extinction. DiNapoli’s campaign has attacked Wilson for his ties to Wall Street and his alleged role in laying off workers and trimming benefits at an upstate manufacturing company called Fibermark that his investment firm acquired during bankruptcy proceedings. Wilson, a neophyte in politics, has returned fire, trying to paint DiNapoli as an inveterate Albany insider and smear him with the Hevesi scandal. Who knows what will stick? DiNapoli has won praise for being a quick study on the job and launching hard-hitting audits of school districts and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to name a few targets.
Both camps admit the race is tight, certainly closer than a recent Sienna poll, which had DiNapoli ahead by double-digits but with Wilson coming on fast. Like Donovan, Wilson has not endorsed Paladino, and when he met with the Long Island Press earlier this fall, Wilson said he could envision working well with a “Gov. Andrew Cuomo.” On the other hand, DiNapoli’s fate on Election night may well hinge on how long Cuomo’s coattails really are. One thing’s for certain: Tax revenues in the Empire State are already falling short of projections by hundreds of millions of dollars, and the next comptroller will have his hands full helping the governor and the Legislature plug the gap.