NEW YORK-The New York state budget is in crisis, state unemployment is matching a 26-year high, and unfortunately New York will be facing its problems with a scandal-ridden, lame-duck governor. Today New York Gov. David Paterson announced that, due to scandal, he will not be seeking a full term as governor. His decision not to run may cement chances that Democrats will keep the governorship.
The scandal broke Wednesday, when The New York Times reported that state officials had become involved in a domestic abuse case involving one of Paterson's closest aides. A woman accused senior adviser David W. Johnson, a man with a history of domestic abuse, of choking and beating her last October. The woman, under oath, told a Family Court in the Bronx that that the New York State Police, who have no jurisdiction in the case, "kept calling and harassing me to drop the charges, and I wouldn't." The New York Times reported that Paterson himself had called the woman and that she then failed to show up for her next court hearing. Paterson admitted to talking to the woman but said she had initiated the call. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is now investigating the case to see if state officials improperly pressured the woman to drop a politically embarrassing case.
In a press conference Friday, Paterson said he is "being realistic about politics" and not seeking election as governor: "There are times in politics when you have to know not to strive for service but to step back, and that moment has come for me. . . . I cannot run for office and try to manage the state's business at the same time, and right now New York State needs a leader who can devote full time to this service." He vowed, "I have never abused my office, not now, not ever." Paterson added that he believes that truth will prevail in Cuomo's investigation of the matter.
In response to press questions afterward, Paterson-who has objected to Saturday Night Live sketches that mock his visual disability-said it was unfortunate when public servants become "celebrity cartoon characters to make fun of."
Paterson is the second consecutive New York governor to be tainted by scandal after Eliot Spitzer resigned following a publicized liaisons with a prostitutute. Paterson's resignation also follows a chaotic year for New York State government. Last June, Senate Republicans overthrew Democratic Senate leadership in a "coup" when two Democrats joined the Republican caucus in a bitter five-week stalemate. Then on Feb. 9, the Senate expelled one of the principal figures-en. Hiram Monserrate-after he was convicted of domestic assault.
This will leave another state with no incumbent running for governor and will likely strengthen the Democrats' chance of keeping the governorship. A Siena poll showed that Cuomo-who has been favored to run against Paterson in the Democratic primary-would beat potential Republican candidate U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio by 63 percent to 26 percent in a general election matchup. In a Lazio-Paterson matchup, however, Lazio would beat Paterson 46 percent to 39 percent.
Bill Devlin, pastor of Manhattan Bible Church, is calling on New York churches to make Sunday a day of prayer for state government. He condemned Paterson's conduct in the case and the "moral chaos" it has produced in Albany.