Quinnipiac Poll

Carl McCall

H. Carl McCall (born October 17, 1935, in Boston, Massachusetts) is a former Comptroller of New York State and was the Democratic candidate in the 2002 election for state governor. He is an ordained minister, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for numerous corporations. He received a (B.A.) degree from Dartmouth College in 1958. Prior to 1958, Dartmouth matriculated four African-American students per year; a limited affirmative action program doubled that number to eight McCall's freshman year. He was also educated at the University of Edinburgh, and is the recipient of twelve honorary degrees.

Early career

During the 1970s, McCall served as a State Senator representing Harlem and other parts of Manhattan. He left the Senate to accept an appointment from President Jimmy Carter as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador.

In 1982 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor of New York running on a ticket with Mario Cuomo. Cuomo later appointed McCall to serve as the state's Commissioner of Human Rights.

While serving in the private sector as a vice president with Citicorp, McCall accepted an appointment to the New York City Board of Education, where he served as President of the Board.

State Comptroller

In 1993, McCall was elected by the New York State Legislature to fill the unexpired term of Republican Edward Regan as state comptroller. As comptroller, McCall was responsible for serving as the state's chief fiscal officer, conducting audits of state and local entities, signing state checks, being the state's bookkeeper, and serving as the sole trustee of the state pension fund.

He was elected state comptroller in 1994 defeating conservative Herbert London and in 1998 defeating Republican Bruce Blakeman. In 1998 he announced that he would not seek election to the U.S. Senate in 2000, leading in part to the successful candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Campaign for Governor

In 2002 McCall officially announced his campaign against Republican incumbent George Pataki. After his primary opponent, former housing secretary Andrew Cuomo, withdrew from the race, McCall entered the general election as the uncontested Democratic candidate, but lost to Pataki.

McCall was the favorite of the Democratic establishment but he faced a tough challenge from Cuomo which almost split the party. Cuomo proved to be a better fundraiser and McCall's own campaign war chest was heavily depleted in the primary battle. Although McCall did not make any negative attacks, his close supporter Charles B. Rangel stated that the McCall camp would not necessarily endorse Cuomo in the general election should the latter win. This backfired as some Italian Americans interpreted that as racism, while many of Cuomo's supporters refused to unite after McCall won the nomination.

Money would prove to be a handicap in the general election, as DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe stated that he would not channel large sums of money to McCall's campaign unless the gap could be closed with Pataki, which McCall never managed to do.

Letterhead controversy

In October 2002, he released 61 letters he had written on state letterhead to heads of companies in which the state owned large blocks of stock, asking them to review enclosed resumes of his relatives and other job-seekers.

Some of the letters referred to the size of the state's ownership interest in the corporation targeted, which critics claimed amounted to a veiled threat to punish companies that didn't hire his relatives. A Quinnipiac poll released October 16 showed that two-thirds of likely voters were aware of the letters and of those more than a fifth were less likely to vote for McCall as a result.

McCall defended the letters. Although he did issue a statement regretting the "appearance" and "impression" of the letters he wrote on government stationery, he maintained that he "never sought to leverage my public position nor mix my government role with my personal and professional relationship" in the letters.


McCall was defeated in the election for governor by the Republican incumbent, George Pataki. He received 33% of the vote, a low percentage for a Democratic nominee for statewide office in a state where the Democratic Party is by far the dominant party based on voter registrations. Some observers feel that this seemingly-poor showing was in part due to the revelation of the above-referenced letters; others noted that McCall's showing was related to racism, especially in upstate New York. However, others point out that Pataki was able to make crucial inroads into traditional areas of Democratic support, such as unions and even African-American congregations.

Other political commentators attribute McCall's defeat to the growing popularity of the Republican Party after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 along with Governor Pataki's successful administration of the state.

Tom Golisano was running in the general election as the Independence Party candidate and he also drew significant support away from McCall. At one point, McCall softened his attacks on Golisano in hopes of getting the latter to withdraw but that did not occur.


McCall was a member of the Board of the New York Stock Exchange from 1999 to 2003. Currently, he is a member of the Fiscal Control Board for Buffalo, New York. He also serves on the Boards of Directors for TYCO International, New Plan Realty, and TAG Entertainment Corporation, and as Chair of the New York State Public Higher Education Conference Board. An ordained minister, he spoke at Dartmouth College's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration on January 15, 2006 about modern civil rights and the legacy of Dr. King. He operates his own fund called Convent Capital.

McCall is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans .

In January 2007, McCall was appointed to a panel, along with former New York State Comptroller Ned Regan and former New York City Comptroller Harrison Jay Goldin, to interview and recommend up to five candidates to the State Legislature to replace Alan Hevesi, who resigned due to scandal.


McCall is married to Dr. Joyce F. Brown, president of Fashion Institute of Technology.


McCall is the recipient of twelve honorary degrees. In 2003, he was awarded the Nelson Rockefeller Distinguished Public Service Award from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University of Albany.

Electoral history

1998 Race for state Comptroller

  • 2002 Race for Governor
  • State Democratic tickets

    1994 NYS Democratic ticket

    1998 NYS Democratic ticket

    2002 NYS Democratic ticket

    References and Citations

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