Streams

'Accumulation of Obstacles' Derailed Paterson

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gov. David Paterson, facing a growing scandal over an alleged domestic violence incident concerning a top aide, has announced he won’t be seeking election for governor after all. The governor says he is not resigning, and intends to serve out his term in office.

Paterson, sounding strong and deliberative, and with his wife Michelle at his side, announced he was dropping out of the race for governor.

"There are times in politics when you have to know not to strive for service, but to step back," said Paterson. "And that moment has come for me."

The governor says he hopes he can now devote his remaining time in office to resolving one of the worst financial crises to ever hit the state.

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

A New York Times report Thursday said that the governor and members of his state police security guard may have interfered with a domestic violence case involving charges against a top aide. The governor denied the report was the direct cause of his decision, and said that he had never "abused" the powers of his office. Paterson said it was it was an "accumulation of obstacles" that led to his announcement. He already suffered from anemic poll numbers, fundraising problems, and a decided lack of support from fellow Democrats around the state.

The governor’s political crisis stands in sharp contrast to his jubilant inauguration as governor when he made history as the state’s first African American and legally blind governor less than two years ago.

At the time, the congenial Paterson, a former long time state Senator, was thought to be a breath of fresh air after the contentious Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer resigned his post as governor after being caught with prostitutes.

But then misfortunes set in. Paterson was criticized for his handling of the appointment of a successor in the U.S. Senate to Hillary Clinton, his aides at one point trashed Democratic political icon Caroline Kennedy, who the governor ultimately rejected for the post. Paterson talked tough on the need to control spending in a budget crisis, then acquiesced to a budget that increased spending and raised taxes and fees by billions of dollars. He’s been plagued by a number of misstatements and mini- scandals. Most recently, Paterson’s pick for a gambling machine contract at Aqueduct Racetrack is the subject of a federal investigation.

Steve Greenberg, political analyst and spokesman for Siena College polling, says it’s been a tragic saga for New York, nearly since the time former governor Spitzer took office three years ago.

"Twice in three years, the voters put their hopes in a governor who they thought was going to do a great job on their behalf," said Greenberg, who said those hopes quickly disintegrated.

Paterson says he has no plans to resign, but Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who was until now a potential political rival, is conducting a criminal investigation, and it’s possible that the governor or members of his top police security detail could be charged with witness tampering or other wrongdoing. If that were to occur, the governor’s plans to fill out his term in office until December 31 might have to change.

The announcement by Paterson now clears the field for Cuomo, who’s been considered a candidate in waiting, to run for governor. The Attorney General, the most popular politician in the state, has a $16 million dollar campaign chest and has recently beefed up his political staff. Paterson says he’s offered his assistance to Cuomo, should he become a candidate.

Late in the day, Cuomo issued a statement. In it, he said it was a "difficult choice and a sad day for the Governor and his family." He went on, "this is an election year and I will announce my plans at the appropriate time." In the meantime, Cuomo continues to say he’s going to focus on doing his job as Attorney General.

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