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NYT: Paterson Will Not Seek Reelection

February 26, 2010

Gov. David A. Paterson, his administration caught up in a whirlwind of allegations about its intervention in a domestic violence episode involving a top aide, is set to announce that he is suspending his election campaign and will not run in November, according to a person told about the plans.

Mr. Paterson is expected to make the announcement Friday afternoon. It would end his campaign less than a week after it officially began, with an angry speech at Hofstra University on Long Island.

As he prepared for the announcement, some newspaper editorial writers were demanding something more than an end to his campaign: they were calling for his resignation. That only added to the increasing sense that it would be nearly impossible for him to run the state and the campaign with the abuse case in the background.

Still, as recently as Thursday evening, Mr. Paterson — who was elected lieutenant governor in November 2006 and became governor in March 2008 after Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal — had said he would stay in the race.

But he also said in a brief appearance on Thursday that he was consulting with other Democrats. And many had said publicly this week that Mr. Paterson’s chances had been damaged, perhaps irreparably, by the disclosures that the governor himself had stepped in on behalf of David W. Johnson, 37, a close confidant who rose from being a young intern to being Mr. Paterson’s driver and scheduler and, later, to a wider role in Mr. Paterson’s operation.

Last fall Mr. Johnson’s longtime companion accused him of brutally assaulting her, telling the police that he had choked her and thrown her against a dresser. She also said that Mr. Johnson had kept her from calling for help.

Twice, the woman was granted a temporary order of protection against Mr. Johnson. But she complained in court that the State Police had pressed her to drop the allegations.

Then, on Feb. 7, the day before a court hearing about a final protective order, Mr. Paterson spoke to her on the phone. She did not show up for the hearing the next day, and the judge dismissed the case.

Domestic-violence experts and advocates said it was inappropriate for the governor, the most powerful state official and a close friend of Mr. Johnson’s, to have any contact with the woman. At the same time, questions were emerging about the role of State Police officials, who had initially described their contact with the woman as an effort to offer her counseling and let her know of “her options.”

But on Thursday, two people who had been briefed on the matter said that the head of the governor’s security detail, Maj. Charles Day, had contacted her himself. Former and current state officials said that was a highly unusual move, given that the State Police had no jurisdiction in the case.

The administration’s handling of the case will now be investigated by the state’s attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, who is himself expected to join the race for governor this year. Some government-watchdog groups said that given Mr. Cuomo’s hopes for the future, an independent prosecutor should be appointed.

The political fallout appeared to be devastating. Even before his speech at Hofstra last week, Mr. Paterson had resisted pressure from within Democratic circles to stand down in favor of Mr. Cuomo, whom many Democrats believe would have a better chance of winning in November.

When Mr. Paterson announced that he was a candidate at Hofstra, where he had gone to law school, the man who has been the state’s top official for 23 months — and had been a state senator for more than 20 years before that — presented himself as something of an outsider tilting against special interests in Albany.But through the day on Thursday, allies had urged Mr. Paterson to rethink his bid for election. Some said his political standing could not be salvaged. Among those who said Mr. Paterson should stand down were senior Democratic members of New York’s Congressional delegation, top Democratic lawmakers in Albany and a number of black Democratic officials, including some from Harlem, Mr. Paterson’s home base.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, before learning that Mr. Paterson’s announcement was expected, expressed concern about the turmoil that the allegations had caused in Albany.

“I think the whole thing’s very sad,” the mayor said. “It’s not good for the state to have a state government that isn’t functioning as well as we need it to function in these very tough economic times.” Mr. Bloomberg said he believed that Mr. Paterson had been “right” to turn to Mr. Cuomo to investigate the way the Paterson administration had handled the domestic-abuse matter.

“How the attorney general is going to proceed — whether he going to do it himself or have somebody else — I don’t know,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “I haven’t talked to him about it, but you know, the governor’s got to make his own plans.”



One Comment
  1. Uh oh, Republicans permalink
    February 27, 2010 5:05 pm

    Uh oh, Republicans.

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