FDR Governor of New York

Governor Roosevelt
Governor FDR

Roosevelt was approached by the leaders of the Democratic Party in New York to run for the governorship. Al Smith was running for President and the Democrats needed someone who could win the state. Smith may also have picked him, as someone that Smith could control - who would spend most of his time in Warm Springs instead of in Albany.

Roosevelt and Herbert Lehman, his candidate for lieutenant governor, ran a vigorous campaign. Although the Democratic national ticket suffered a massive defeat, Roosevelt won a narrow victory. Roosevelt took office and to the surprise of Al Smith, turned out to be an activist governor. Smith or other would not influence him outside forces. In the beginning of his term, Roosevelt fought the legislature's ability to determine how money was actually spent - a practice that was described as lump sum items. Roosevelt took the position that this practice impinged upon his executive powers. Roosevelt vetoed the state budget that was presented to him which included lump sum payments. The fight was taken to the courts. The Appellate decision of the State Supreme Court sided with the legislature. Roosevelt appealed and in November 1929, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court decision declaring the legislators' action unconstitutional. It was a stunning victory for Roosevelt.

Roosevelt quickly established a reputation as a progressive governor. He supported aid to the farmer. He also favored state regulation of the power industry. He engaged in extensive prison reform, eliminating mandatory life sentences for fourth time offenders as well as engaging in the construction of new prisons. Roosevelt was a strong supporter of labor laws to protect workers. With the onset of the Depression, Roosevelt developed a strong reputation for supporting active government intervention to help the unemployed. He established the temporary Emergency Relief Administration to help the homeless and unemployed. Roosevelt picked Harry Hopkins to lead the agency, and it became a prototype to the program Roosevelt was to unveil in the New Deal. Roosevelt developed a national reputation as an activist Governor, who took charge and made things happen.