Governing New York State: The Rockefeller Years

By Robert H. Connery; Gerald Benjamin | Go to book overview
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Nelson A. Rockefeller as Governor


As governor of New York, Nelson A. Rockefeller was a major figure in shaping not only the course of government in his own state, but also the role of states generally in the federal system. Moreover, he was a perennial presidential candidate and consequently an important national figure. There is no doubt that he dominated New York State government during his fifteen years as governor, an office that is almost unique among state executives because of the wide formal powers it confers. But the reasons for Rockefeller's enormous impact upon government, both within and outside New York, go beyond the formal powers of the office and must be sought, in large measure, in the qualities of the man himself, his style, and the manner in which he used the resources available to him.

Rockefeller had certain advantages not usually possessed by a governor. He added long tenure, abundant energy, great wealth, and an exceptionally wide acquaintance in industry and the arts to the prerogatives and strong party leadership role that go with the governorship in New York. Rockefeller also brought to the governorship a conviction that major social and economic problems could be solved by state government and that aggressive executive leadership from the governor's mansion could help find these solutions. He was, to use James David Barber's phrase, an "active-positive" executive. 1 To

This paper is based on the New York State Administrative Policies Studies, now in progress, sponsored by the Academy of Political Science.
James David Barber, The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972).

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