The dream is over for New York Governor David Paterson. The Empire State's first black governor announcedannounce this afternoon that he will withdraw from the race for a new term after news reports that he and New York State Police officials had intervened in a domestic violence incident involving a close aide.
At a news conference, Paterson cited an accumulation of distractions that prompted him to end his campaign, but said he had never abused his office. "But I am being realistic about politics," he said. "It hasn't been the latest distraction … It's been an accumulation of obstacles that have obfuscated me from bringing my message to the public." Paterson insisted that he would not resign and said he would serve out his term "fighting for the state of New York."
The New York Times reported this morning that Paterson, who took over as governor in March 2008 after Gov. Eliot Spitzer was caught up in a sex-for-hire scandal, had decided to give up is re-election bid just a week after he officially launched his campaign to win through election the post he had occupied by circumstance.
Just yesterday, Paterson declared: "I am not suspending my campaign, but I am talking to a number of elected officials around the state, as I would, fellow Democrats, to get their opinion," he said. He would not answer specific questions about the case, saying it is under investigation. At the end, he said: "I have no plans to step down."
Yesterday, The New York Times disclosed that Paterson had personally called a woman the day before she was to appear in court to seek an order of protection against his close aide and confidant, David Johnson, 37, according to her lawyer. A State Police official on the governor's personal security detail had also visited the woman. The woman did not show up in court and the case was dismissed.
Paterson, New York's 55th governor, is the son of a highly-respected former New York politician, Basil Paterson. Legally blind, David Paterson was elected lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket with crusading prosecutor Eliot Spitzer in 2006. On taking office, he announced that both he and his wife had engaged in extra-marital affairs.
He stumbled badly in handling the replacement of Hillary Clinton when she gave up her U.S. Senate seat to become President Obama's secretary of state. One possible replacement was Caroline Kennedy, the well-connected daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy. Paterson aides were accused of spreading rumors about Kennedy and she finally indicated she was not interested in the position.
He has accused critics of racism and bristled at being called the "accidental governor." Paterson has been in a stalemate with his state legislature over budget cuts as New York struggles with the sharp revenue losses from the recession and the crisis on Wall Street.