N.Y. Gov. Paterson won’t run to keep job | NevadaAppeal.com

N.Y. Gov. Paterson won’t run to keep job

Keith B. Richburg
The Washington Post

NEW YORK – New York Gov. David Paterson, who was unexpectedly catapulted into the job two years ago when his predecessor resigned in a sex scandal, announced Friday he would not be running for election in November, as he battles low poll numbers and a growing scandal of his own.

“I am being realistic about politics,” Paterson said, alluding to the scandal involving contacts he and members of his state police security detail had with a woman who was seeking a court restraining order against one of the governor’s closest aides.

“It hasn’t been the latest distraction, it has been an accumulation of obstacles that have obfuscated me from bringing my message to the public,” said Paterson, who added that he is looking forward to a full investigation.

“I give you this personal oath,” Patterson said while dramatically raising his right hand in the air, “I have never abused my office, not now, not ever.”

The staging of Paterson’s announcement carried striking similarities to the news conference called in March 2008 by his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, to announce he was resigning after 13 months in office. They were both held in a room packed with reporters in the governor’s midtown Manhattan office. Spitzer’s wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, stood by her husband’s side two years ago. Paterson’s wife, Michelle, was at his side Friday.

“There are too many parallels that in a rational world simply wouldn’t exist,” said Douglas Muzzio, a political scientist at City University’s Baruch College. “Now we have the unfortunate sight of the last two chief executives severely damaged. … It’s beyond fiction, it’s too absurd.”

Spitzer resigned after being caught in an FBI sting operation as a client of a high-priced prostitution ring, and he was also under investigation for using the state police to conduct surveillance on political opponents. Paterson is being investigated over whether he used state police to try to stop a woman from going to court over her claims that Paterson’s aide, David Johnson, violently assaulted her last Halloween.

Paterson acknowledged he spoke with the woman on the telephone on Feb. 7. The next day, she failed to appear in court for a scheduled hearing on her request for a permanent protection order against Johnson.

The Paterson scandal was first reported by The New York Times.

“You’ve got misusing the state police and abuse of power,” said Henry Sheinkopf, a New York Democratic strategist. “There’s two of the three Spitzer elements – all that’s missing is the hooker.”

Democrats, for the most part, were breathing a sigh of relief at Paterson’s decision not to run. The White House had tried unsuccessfully last September to nudge Paterson out of the race, but Paterson had remained defiant.

His announcement clears the way for the state’s popular attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, to run for governor and avoid what would likely have been a messy primary battle.

A poll released Monday by the Siena (College) Research Institute showed Paterson losing in a matchup to Republican candidate Rick Lazio, 39 to 46 percent. The poll showed Cuomo beating Lazio 63 percent to 26 percent.

The poll showed Cuomo with a 65 percent favorability rating. Cuomo has taken on causes like fighting against exorbitant bonuses at Wall Street firms that received public bailout money at the height of the economic crisis.

Paterson took office riding a wave of goodwill as the state’s first black governor and the first who was legally blind. But his support started to crumble with his messy public process to select a U.S. senate successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who left to become secretary of state.

After initially seeming to encourage Caroline Kennedy to campaign for the appointment, Paterson selected a little-known upstate member of Congress, Kirsten Gillibrand.

Paterson also became embroiled in contentious budget battles, and various constituency groups began running harsh television advertisements attacking him. “There were tens of millions of dollars spent attacking him on radio and television commercials, and they weren’t answered,” said the Siena poll’s spokesman, Steven Greenberg.

Still, while dropping his election bid, Paterson insisted he would not resign.

“There are 308 days left in my term,” Paterson said. “I will serve every one of them fighting for the people of the state of New York.”