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David Alexander Paterson (born May 20, 1954)[1] is an American politician who served as the 55th Governor of New York, succeeding Eliot Spitzer and serving out the final three years of Spitzer's term from March 2008 to the end of 2010. He is the first African American to hold that position and the second legally blind[2] Governor of any state after Bob C. Riley, who was Acting Governor of Arkansas for 11 days in January 1975.[3]

David Paterson
David Paterson 2 by David Shankbone.jpg
55th Governor of New York
In office
March 17, 2008 – December 31, 2010
LieutenantJoseph Bruno (Acting)
Dean Skelos (Acting)
Malcolm Smith (Acting)
Pedro Espada Jr. (Acting)
Richard Ravitch
Preceded byEliot Spitzer
Succeeded byAndrew Cuomo
Lieutenant Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 2007 – March 17, 2008
GovernorEliot Spitzer
Preceded byMary Donohue
Succeeded byJoseph Bruno (acting)
Chair of the New York State Democratic Committee
In office
May 21, 2014 – November 4, 2015
Preceded byKeith L. T. Wright
Succeeded bySheila Comar
Minority Leader of the New York State Senate
In office
January 1, 2003 – December 31, 2006
Preceded byMartin Connor
Succeeded byMalcolm Smith
Member of the New York Senate
from the 30th district
In office
January 1, 2003 – December 31, 2006
Preceded byEric Schneiderman
Succeeded byBill Perkins
Member of the New York Senate
from the 29th district
In office
December 10, 1985 – December 31, 2002
Preceded byLeon Bogues
Succeeded byThomas Duane
Personal details
David Alexander Paterson

(1954-05-20) May 20, 1954 (age 65)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Michelle Paige (1993–2014)
EducationColumbia University (BA)
Hofstra University (JD)

After graduating from Hofstra Law School, Paterson worked in the district attorney's office of Queens County, New York, and on the staff of Manhattan borough president David Dinkins. In 1985, he was elected to the New York state senate to a seat that was once held by his father, former New York secretary of state Basil Paterson. In 2003, he rose to the position of Senate minority leader. Paterson was selected as running mate by then-New York attorney general and Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee Eliot Spitzer in the 2006 New York gubernatorial election.[4] Spitzer and Paterson were elected in November 2006 with 69 percent of the vote, and Paterson took office as lieutenant governor on January 1, 2007.[5]

When Spitzer resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal, Paterson was sworn in as Governor of New York on March 17, 2008.[6] Paterson launched a brief campaign for a full term as governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election, but announced on February 26, 2010 that he would not be a candidate in the Democratic primary.[7] Since leaving office, Paterson has been a radio talk show host on station WOR in New York City, and was in 2014 appointed chairman of the New York Democratic Party by his successor as governor, Andrew Cuomo.[8]


Early life and backgroundEdit

Paterson was born in Brooklyn to Portia Paterson, a homemaker, and Basil Paterson, a labor law attorney. Basil Paterson was later a New York state senator and secretary of state, and served as deputy mayor of New York City.[9] According to a New York Now interview, Paterson traces his roots on his mother's side of the family to pre-Civil War African American slaves in the states of North Carolina and South Carolina.[10] His father is half Afro-Jamaican. His paternal grandmother, a Jamaican, Evangeline Rondon Paterson[11] was secretary to Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. His paternal grandfather was Leonard James Paterson,[12] a native of Carriacou[13] who arrived in the United States aboard the S.S. Vestris on May 16, 1917.[14] It was reported by The Genetic Genealogist in March 2008 that Paterson had recently undergone genetic genealogy testing.[15] Part of his father's ancestry consists of immigrants from England, Ireland, and Scotland, while his mother's side includes Eastern European Jewish ancestry, as well as ancestors from the Guinea-Bissau region of West Africa.[16]

At the age of three months, Paterson contracted an ear infection that spread to his optic nerve, leaving him sightless in his left eye and with severely limited vision in his right.[9][17] Since New York City public schools would not guarantee him an education without placing him in special education classes, his family bought a home in the Long Island suburb of South Hempstead so that he could attend mainstream classes there. Paterson was the first disabled student in the Hempstead public schools, graduating from Hempstead High School in 1971.[18][19][20][21]

Paterson received a B.A. degree in history from Columbia College of Columbia University in 1977 and a J.D. degree from Hofstra Law School in 1983.[18] After law school, he went to work for the Queens District Attorney's Office, but did not pass the New York bar examination, which prevented him from becoming an attorney at law. He claimed that his failing the New York bar was partially the result of insufficient accommodation for his visual impairment, and has since advocated for changes in bar exam procedures.[20]

While he was governor, Paterson's staff read documents to him over voice mail. He was the first governor of New York to be partly blind.[22]

Paterson and his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, separated after 19 years of marriage in September 2012.[23] Their divorce was finalized in July, 2014. [24]

Political careerEdit

In 1985, Paterson resigned from the Queens District Attorney's office so he could join the campaign of then city clerk David Dinkins to win the Democratic nomination for Manhattan Borough President. That summer, on August 6, state senator Leon Bogues died, and Paterson sought and obtained the Democratic party nomination for the seat. In mid-September, a meeting of 648 Democratic committee members on the first ballot gave Paterson 58% of the vote, giving him the party nomination. That October, Paterson won the virtually uncontested special State Senate election.[25][26] At the time, the 29th Senate district covered the Manhattan neighborhoods of Harlem, Manhattan Valley and the Upper West Side, the same district that Paterson's father had represented.[18] He was re-elected ten times, and remained in the state senate until 2006, sitting in the 186th, 187th, 188th, 189th, 190th, 191st, 192nd, 193rd, 194th, 195th and 196th New York State Legislatures. In November 2006, he was elected lieutenant governor.[27][28]

Paterson briefly ran in the Democratic primary for the office of New York City Public Advocate in 1993, but was defeated by Mark J. Green.[29]

Senate minority leaderEdit

Paterson was elected by the Democratic caucus of the Senate as Minority Leader on November 20, 2002, becoming both the first non-white state legislative leader and the highest-ranking black elected official in the history of New York State, unseating the incumbent Minority Leader, Martin Connor. Paterson became known for his consensus-building style coupled with sharp political skills.[30]

In 2006, Paterson sponsored a controversial bill to limit the use of deadly force by the police, but later changed that position. He also supported non-citizen voting in New York local elections. According to the New York Post, he "chalked up a heavily liberal record".[31] Describing Paterson's tenure in the senate, The New York Times cited his "wit, flurries of reform proposals and unusual bursts of candor".[32]

Lieutenant governor of New YorkEdit

Paterson was selected by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer as his running mate for the governor's office in 2006. The news stunned the New York political world, as the Democratic minority was poised to possibly take over the state legislature. Paterson would trade a possible powerful Senate Majority Leader position for the largely ceremonial lieutenant governor post.[33] During their 2006 campaign, Paterson resolved a dispute with Spitzer over turf wars between staff members.[34] The Spitzer-Paterson ticket won a landslide victory in the election, with 69% of the vote. It was the largest margin of victory in a gubernatorial race in New York history, and the second-largest for any statewide race in New York history.[35]

In late December 2006, shortly before being sworn in as lieutenant governor, Paterson said that if he ever succeeded Spitzer as governor, he and Nelson A. Rockefeller would have something besides the governorship in common: great difficulty in reading. Rockefeller was dyslexic, which Paterson compared to his blindness.[36] During his time as lieutenant governor, Paterson also served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School for International and Public Affairs.[37]

As lieutenant governor, Paterson was involved in a range of issues, including:

Stem cell research
Paterson is a proponent of embryonic stem cell research. He led Spitzer's successful 2007 legislative effort to approve a bond issue which will provide at least $1 billion toward stem cell research. Spitzer and Paterson touted the measure partly for its economic development benefits, following California's $3 billion effort, which in turn had been prompted by the U.S. federal government halting funding for such research.[38] The New York state legislature had opposed funding the research, and it remains controversial.[39][40]
Voting rights
In September 2007, Paterson weighed in on a proposal before the New York City Council to extend voting rights to noncitizens.[41] He told a crowd gathered at the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade that he believed noncitizens should be granted voting rights.[31][42] He stressed he was asking for a change in policy, rather than a new law, citing that although 22 states and territories between 1776 and 1920 allowed the practice, none do now.[43] Spitzer issued a statement that he did not agree with Paterson's position, and claimed he was unaware Paterson would be speaking on the matter.[44] Paterson had tried to introduce legislation granting voting rights to noncitizens as a State Senator fifteen years earlier.[41][45]
Lawsuit over bias allegation
In February 2008, a U.S. District Judge denied a motion to dismiss a racial discrimination lawsuit naming Paterson.[46][47] A former staff photographer, a white male, claimed that he was the victim of discrimination in 2005 when Paterson's office replaced him with a black photographer. According to the New York Post, Paterson's chief of staff "denied the claim... Paterson, in his deposition, countered that the decision... was simple politics – [the photographer] was a holdover from former Minority Leader Marty Connor, who was ousted by Paterson in 2003."[48]

Governor of New YorkEdit

The Paterson Executive Chamber
GovernorDavid Paterson2008–
Lieutenant GovernorRichard Ravitch2009–
Secretary to the GovernorWilliam J. Cunningham III (Acting as)2008–
General CounselTerryl Brown-Clemens2008–
Communications DirectorRisa Heller2008–
Director of State OperationsDennis Whalen2008–
Chief of StaffJon Cohen2008–
Office of the Attorney GeneralAndrew Cuomo2008–
Office of the Inspector GeneralJoseph Fisch
Office of the ComptrollerThomas DiNapoli2008–
Department of Agriculture and MarketsPatrick Hooker2008–
Department of BankingRichard H. Neiman2008–
Department of Civil ServiceNancy G. Groenwegen2008–
Department of Corrections and Community SupervisionBrian Fischer2008–
Department of Environmental ConservationAlexander Pete Grannis2008–
Education Department Richard P. Mills2008–
Department of HealthRichard F. Daines2008–
Insurance DepartmentEric R. Dinallo2008–
Department of LaborM. Patricia Smith2008–
Department of Motor VehiclesDavid Swarts2008–
Department of Military & Naval AffairsMaj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto2008–
Department of Public ServiceGary A. Brown2008–
Secretary of StateRuth Noemí Colón (Acting)2010–
Department of Taxation and FinanceRobert L. Megna2008–
Department of TransportationAstrid C. Glynn2008–2009

Upon hearing that Governor Eliot Spitzer would resign due to scandal, and he would become the next governor, Paterson called his then-wife Michelle and said, according to Michelle, "I think I'll kill myself".[49]

Following Spitzer's resignation, Paterson was sworn in as the 55th governor of New York, at the New York State Capitol on March 17, 2008, by New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye.[50]

Paterson was the first black governor of New York and the fourth in any U.S. state, following Reconstruction-era P. B. S. Pinchback of Louisiana, Virginia's Douglas Wilder and Massachusetts's Deval Patrick. The lieutenant governor's office remained vacant until September 22, 2009, when the New York Court of Appeals, ruled in a 4–3 decision that Paterson's appointment of Richard Ravitch was constitutional.[51] Prior to this appointment, under the state's constitution, the president pro tempore of the state senate, Malcolm Smith, would have been next in the line of succession for the governor's office.[52]

Paterson speaks during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Paterson has used Global Strategy Group consultants for political advice as governor. His relationship with the firm began earlier. When he was lieutenant governor, GSG executives advised him on how to make the job more prominent, and the firm again advised him during the transition and afterward. Soon after becoming governor, Paterson hired former Risa B. Heller from GSG as his director of communications. As of September 2008, Paterson and the state Democratic Party were each paying GSG a retainer of $15,000 a month in addition to costs associated with polling and political advertising.[53]

On July 17, 2008, Paterson was the keynote speaker addressing the 99th annual convention of the NAACP in Cincinnati, Ohio.[54] Other speakers included Congressman Charles Rangel and U.S. presidential candidate John McCain.

Although Paterson is a lifelong Democrat who was considered a liberal during his time in the state Senate, he earned praise from conservatives during his time as governor for his efforts to combat the 2008 New York fiscal crisis by major reductions in spending and the enaction of an inflation-indexed property tax cap, a school tax "circuit breaker," and unfunded mandate relief, as well as his appointment of Blue Dog Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy created by Hillary Clinton's appointment as United States Secretary of State.[55][56][57]

In September 2010, Paterson was one of seven governors to receive a grade of F in the Cato Institute's fiscal-policy report card.[58]

First days as governorEdit

Paterson ascended to the governor's office during the busiest legislative period of the year. The state is required by law to pass its budget prior to April 1.[59] He had only two weeks to negotiate with lawmakers a proposal to close a $4.7 billion deficit and pass a $124 billion budget from the Spitzer administration.[60] He stated in his inauguration speech that it would be his top priority.[61]

Paterson also made reference in his speech to the economic woes being faced in the United States, calling them a "crisis", and promised to "adjust the budget accordingly".[62] Since 1984, New York State has only passed a budget on time once, in 2005, leading Paterson to call for an "end to the dysfunction in Albany" in his speech, echoing a 56-page study from the nonpartisan New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice, which referred to the legislature as "the least deliberative and most dysfunctional in the nation".[63][64][65]

Paterson quickly signed five pieces of legislation on his first day in office: to add the New York State Department of Labor to the New York City Transit Track Safety Task Force; to eliminate a law that discouraged employers from holding blood drives; to change the way in which members are appointed to a state health and research board; to restore eligibility caps to certain senior employment programs; and to grant tax exemptions to several local development corporations in New York State.[66]

He went on to ask for letters of resignation from all of his top staff members and state-agency commissioners. This typical action did not mean the hold overs from the Spitzer administration would be replaced, and Paterson said that "having the letters gives him the flexibility to make changes if he decides to".[67]

Personal revelationsEdit

One day after Paterson's inauguration as the governor of New York, both he and his wife acknowledged having had extramarital affairs, one with a state employee.[68] Paterson's admissions went against the so-called "Bear Mountain Compact",[69] a practice by lawmakers that their transgressions in the state capital would not be reported elsewhere.[70][71][72]

Same-sex marriageEdit

In May 2008, Paterson informed New York State agencies that they were required to recognize same-sex marriage licenses from other jurisdictions for purposes of employee benefits.[73] The governor's directive was purportedly based upon a decision from New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division's Fourth Department.[73] The governor's directive did not receive widespread public attention until weeks after the directive was given.[74] At that time, the governor's decision provoked public reaction on both sides of the issue. While Paterson's directive received widespread approval from same-sex marriage supporters,[75] it was met with criticism from conservative legislators and from same-sex marriage opponents, one of whom referred to the directive as governor Paterson's "first major blunder".[76][77] Then-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and others accused Paterson of having overstepped his bounds and usurped the authority of the legislature.[76] Paterson reportedly described same-sex marriage as "beautiful," and contended that his decision was "the right thing to do"; the governor was enthusiastically cheered when he attended the 2008 gay pride parade in Manhattan.[78][79][80]

On June 3, 2008, a lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defense Fund challenging the governor's directive.[81] On September 2, 2008, Justice Lucy A. Billings, of the State Supreme Court in the Bronx issued a decision that Paterson acted within his powers when he required state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages from outside New York State. In her dismissal of the Alliance Defense Fund suit, Justice Billings found that the governor's order was consistent with state laws on the recognition of marriages from outside the state.[82]

In April 2009, it was revealed that Paterson would propose legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.[83] Paterson later tapped former Senate Majority Leader and former political foe Joseph Bruno to support same-sex marriage in Albany.[84] On December 2, 2009, same-sex marriage legislation was "overwhelmingly" defeated on the floor of the New York State Senate by a vote of 24 to 38; no Republican voted yes, eight Democrats voted no.[85][86] The Daily News described the defeat as a "major blow", while The New York Times stated that the defeat "all but ensures that the issue is dead in New York until at least 2011, when a new Legislature will be installed."[85][86]

In late 2010, before the January 2011 expiration of his term as governor, Paterson reached out to members of the New York State Senate in an attempt to gauge support for the passage of same-sex marriage legislation during a lame-duck session of the Legislature; however, the governor came to the conclusion that passage of the bill during the lame-duck session was not feasible.[87] When asked what would have to occur in order for same-sex marriage to be legalized in New York, Paterson responded, "Get rid of the lobbyists," and added that same-sex marriage advocates had forced a Senate floor vote prematurely in December 2009.[87]

Review of hydrofrackingEdit

On July 21, 2008, Paterson signed [88] into law. This law amended New York's Environmental Conversation Law to provide for larger spacing units, which would have opened up New York to shale gas exploration. However, he also added a note to the bill jacket which read:

"[R]esidents who could be impacted by drilling activities have raised a number of important concerns, such as potential impacts on groundwater resources, procedures for the treatment and transport of process water contaminated during drilling operations, potential impacts on local infrastructure from increased heavy truck traffic, the safety of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing of geologic formations and potential cumulative impacts of wide-scale drilling across the southern tier.... As a result, I am directing DEC to initiate a formal public process to update the SEQRA Generic Environmental Impact Statement that is applicable to oil and gas drilling to ensure that it is suitable to address potential new environmental impacts from drilling, including horizontal drilling in Marcellus shale formations."[89]

This action created an immediate moratorium, and began the environmental review which eventually led to Governor Cuomo to sign an executive ban on fracking six years later.

New York fiscal crisisEdit

In July 2008, Paterson warned state lawmakers and citizens of New York that the state faced its worst fiscal crisis since the 1970s.[90] On Tuesday, July 29, Paterson gave a rare televised address that was broadcast on all of New York's major news networks, stating that the state budget deficit had gone up $1.4 billion over the 90 days since his original budget submission, citing rising costs due to the poor economy and a struggling Wall Street, and calling the state legislature back to Albany for an emergency session starting on August 19, 2008.[91][92][93] He also warned that the budget deficit was estimated to grow 22 percent by 2011, and called for the special legislative session on August 19 to deal with the crisis.[94] With AIG on the verge of collapse on September 16, 2008, and in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, Paterson publicly lobbied for a government bailout of the insurance giant.[95] He hit the cable networks early[96] and was quoted by media around the world.[97][98][99] The previous day, Paterson had loosened regulations to allow AIG to draw reserves from its subsidiaries.

At his first State of the State address in January 2009, Paterson said "My fellow New Yorkers: let me come straight to the point—the state of our state is perilous. New York faces an historic economic challenge, the gravest in nearly a century. ... The pillars of Wall Street have crumbled. The global economy is reeling. Trillions of dollars of wealth have vanished."[100]

In March 2009, Paterson announced at a town hall meeting in Niagara Falls that in light of the fiscal crisis, he would take a 10% pay cut.[101] On January 2, 2009, Paterson joined the governors of four other states in urging the federal government to provide $1 trillion in aid to the country's 50 state governments to help pay for education, welfare and infrastructure as states struggle with steep budget deficits amid a deepening recession.[102]

2008–09 executive budgetEdit

Paterson revised Spitzer's record-size executive budget proposal to cut spending. Budget negotiations carried over past the deadline, causing the new governor to lament that too many lawmakers were "unwilling to make serious cuts to our budget".[103] On April 10, the $121.7 billion budget package was passed by both houses of the state legislature. His budget closed a projected $4.6 billion deficit with $1.8 billion of spending cuts, $1.5 billion in additional revenue from increased taxes and fees and $1.3 billion of one time transfers, and did not tap into the state's $1.2 billion of reserves or increase the top income tax rate on those earning $1 million or more.[103]

Paterson's budget provided property tax relief by delivering aid to municipalities, and included restoration of hundreds of millions in property tax rebates for middle-class homeowners and $1 billion for upstate economic development.[104] The spending included a record $1.8 billion aid increase to local school districts, and $2.5 billion in aid for construction projects at state and city public colleges.[103] Paterson decided to fully fund a landmark proposal authored by State Assemblyman Greg Ball, creating a tuition remission program for military veterans, offering them free tuition at both SUNY and CUNY institutions.[105][106][107]

Although the legislature was unable to come to a decision on a separate bill to enact congestion pricing in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the budget "good news for our city".[103] Even though the budget enacted was the first in a decade that included less spending than the proposal, Paterson promised to slash the following year's state budget by 5 to 10 percent, because the spending plan he inherited was "too big and too bloated".[108] The accidental nature of Paterson's ascension may have hampered his involvement in that year's process to some degree, but he told The New York Times, "I think we passed a sound budget, but I don't think that we left ourselves enough room."[109]

In April 2008, Paterson asked the heads of all state agencies to cut their budgets by 3.35% and threatened a hiring freeze; the governor also asked legislative leaders to follow suit.[110][111] In August 2008, he called a special emergency session of the legislature and enacted 6% across-the-board cuts in all state agencies. He called another special session in November 2008 to trim an additional 3%, but this effort was met without success.

2009–10 executive budgetEdit

In 2009, New York faced a budget deficit of $15 billion, and state debt approached $55 billion.[112] During his State of the State address, Paterson outlined many issues critical to closing the budget caps, and restoring New York's economic strength and quality of life.[113] He recommended adapting the Suozzi commission recommendations on a property tax cap and circuit breaker, and even joked that he should switch parties as the proposal remained more popular amongst Republicans than in his own party.[114]

To address the State's budget gap, the governor recommended a Deficit Reduction Assessment for the 2009–10 school year, which would result in a decrease of $1.1 billion in total State School Aid.[115] He also outlined several new taxes and fees he supported. The proposed four percent tax increases, all of which were levies of the state's sales tax on items that were previously untaxed, also authorized local counties and municipalities to collect their local share of the sales tax on those items; these local taxes ranged from the default of 3% to as high as 4.75%. The budget also recommended dramatic across-the-board cuts to various state agencies, which he called "deep and painful" in his address.[116] Other major budget initiatives included eliminating the STAR property tax rebate program (1.4 billion), suspending increases in aid and incentives for municipalities, Empire Zone reforms, and pension reforms.[113]

Paterson also moved to close the 81-year-old Reynolds Game Farm, in Tompkins county, the state's only remaining pheasant facility. This decision drew criticism from sportsmen groups, as the farm is funded through licensing fees paid by hunters, and not taxpayer dollars.[117] In addition, Paterson's recommendation to close the farm would only result in the employees being reassigned. Some questioned whether the $750,000 in savings from closing the facility would outweigh the estimated $700 million generated for the upstate economy if hunters simply take their business to other states.[118] Various sportsmen's groups were able to obtain a court ordered injunction in January 2009 to temporarily halt the measure.[119] The next day, Paterson reversed his decision and decided to keep the game farm operating, acknowledging that it does generate significant revenues for the state.[120]

On June 2, 2010, Paterson announced layoffs of state of workers which was to be planned and executed by January 1, 2011. Amidst the failed attempt of passing a furlough, Paterson stated that he expected the layoffs would help close the budget deficit.

Senate appointmentEdit

After being nominated for the position on December 1, 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton was confirmed as United States Secretary of State by the United States Senate. Clinton resigned her Senate seat on January 21, 2009, in order to assume the Cabinet post.[121] By mandate of the New York Constitution, Paterson was tasked with appointing a temporary replacement until a special election in 2010 for the conclusion of the term of her Class 1 seat. Paterson's aides had intimated that his desire was to appoint a candidate who is from upstate, since every other statewide official in New York save Clinton herself was from New York City.[122] Paterson named several advisers on the matter prior to his appointment, including Chuck Schumer, Charles B. Rangel, Nita Lowey, Gregory W. Meeks, and two staffers.[123]

Some thought that Paterson might appoint a prominent minority member such as Meeks, H. Carl McCall, William C. Thompson, Jr., Byron Brown, José E. Serrano or Nydia M. Velázquez.[124] Among the prominent women mentioned were former 2000 senatorial contender Lowey, NY-14 Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, former Clinton aide Leecia Eve, United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, NY-20 Representative Kirsten Gillibrand, and political heiress Caroline Kennedy.[125][126][127] Actress Fran Drescher also expressed interest in becoming the New York Senator.[128] On December 1, 2008, when President-elect Barack Obama announced his nomination of Clinton as Secretary of State, Lowey declared she was not a candidate for the Senate seat.[129] While New York Attorney General and former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo refused to publicly declare his interest in the seat, he attracted a plurality of support from polled New Yorkers to take the seat[130] and was cited by some analysts as a savvy choice for Paterson to head off the possibility of a strong primary challenge by Cuomo in the 2010 gubernatorial election.[131][132] Paterson acknowledged on January 20, 2009, that Cuomo was indeed under consideration for the appointment.[133] NY-2 Representative Steve Israel also expressed his interest in taking the seat.[134]

It was reported on December 5, 2008 that Paterson had spoken with Kennedy regarding her interest in filling the seat of Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton,[135] but in a confusing turn of events, Kennedy abruptly withdrew her name from consideration on January 21, 2009.[136] Up until her withdrawal, for which no official explanation was given,[137] the high-profile, well-connected daughter of former President John F. Kennedy was widely considered the front-runner for the nomination.[138][139][140] However, some reports that came after Kennedy removed herself from consideration claimed that Paterson "never intended" to pick Kennedy, having come to consider her "unready" for the seat after a series of media misfires[141][142] attracted criticism of Kennedy.[143] Some sources and analysts doubted the reports' veracity, calling the Paterson camp's denials of intention to pick Kennedy "misdirection".[144] Joseph Mercurio remarked that Paterson's caginess had backfired, noting, "Now no matter who he picks, it's always going to be the choice after what happened to Kennedy."[145]

On January 23, 2009, Paterson chose Gillibrand—a moderate upstate congresswoman from then-largely conservative district—to fill Clinton's vacated seat.[146] The reaction from the Kennedy family was reportedly "furious", according to The New York Post[147] and the Daily News.[148] Although Gillibrand's appointment was praised by some (including Schumer, New York's senior senator;[149] President Obama;[150] and Clinton herself[151]), others criticized Paterson's choice, calling Gillibrand "inexperienced",[152] "sharp-elbowed",[153] "too conservative",[154] and "unliked".[155] Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a strong advocate for gun control, threatened to run against Gillibrand in a 2010 primary due to her support for Second Amendment rights, concurrence with the platform of the National Rifle Association as a member of the House, and reported opposition to the Obama stimulus plan. (Gillibrand eventually voted for the stimulus, along with every other Senate Democrat.[156] She also moved steadily to the left, whereby within a few years she became known as one of the most liberal members of the Senate.[157]) Others, including liberal The New York Times editorialist Maureen Dowd[158] and New York Magazine writer Chris Smith,[159] criticized Paterson's "peculiar" and "dithering" handling of the Senate appointment and suggested it was a cynical way of rallying upstate support for re-election. Dowd went so far as to will Andrew Cuomo to run against Paterson in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Paterson later admitted that he personally ordered his staff to contest Caroline Kennedy's version of events in the hours after she withdrew from consideration to be United States senator.[160]

Appointment of new lieutenant governorEdit

Due to the ongoing leadership crisis in the New York State Senate, in which the Senate tied with 31 Democratic votes and 31 Republican votes, with no presiding officer to break the tie, Paterson announced on July 8, 2009 that he would appoint Richard Ravitch, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to be lieutenant governor.[161] On August 20, 2009, however, a four-judge panel of the New York State Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department ruled that Paterson had no legal authority to name a lieutenant governor, and that the lieutenant governor position could not be filled in any way other than via an election.

On September 23, 2009, the New York Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division's decision, holding Paterson's appointment of Ravitch to be constitutional.[162]

Aqueduct Race TrackEdit

In January 2010 Paterson awarded a contract to operate a 4,500 slot machine racino at the Aqueduct Race Track to Aqueduct Race Track Entertainment Group (AEG) in Queens, New York. The appointment generated controversy because of charges that AEG, which had the worst bid of those bidding, was allowed to change its bid so that it had the best. Paterson is reported to have demanded that the ownership have an affirmative action component. During this time, rapper Jay-Z, through his company Gain Global Investments Network, LLC, then got a 7 percent ownership stake in AEG; charges were made that Jay-Z and Paterson had a personal relationship. U.S. prosecutors were reported to be investigating the bidding process, particularly AEG winning the bid two days after Queens megachurch pastor Floyd Flake (also an AEG investor) threatened to switch his support in the 2010 governor race from Paterson to Andrew Cuomo. New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver threatened not to sign off on the deal. Paterson maintained there was no quid pro quo.[163]

On March 9, 2010, Paterson recused himself from the case, saying he was doing so on the advice of his lawyers.[164] On the same day Flake and Jay-Z withdrew from AEG. Flake had a 0.6% share.[165]

Allegations against the Paterson administrationEdit

In February 2010, The New York Times reported on allegations that Paterson may have been involved in witness tampering in a domestic abuse case involving staffer David W. Johnson after New York State Police and Paterson talked to the woman to get her to drop the case. Paterson was said to have asked the woman personally if she needed any help a day before the case was dropped.[166]

On December 20, 2010, the Commission on Public Integrity, saying Paterson had lied about accepting five World Series tickets, fined Paterson $62,125.[167]

Saturday Night Live controversyEdit

After the Weekend Update sketch featuring David Paterson aired in 2009 on the NBC show Saturday Night Live, Paterson was upset by the way the sketch portrayed him, stating that it was an offensive stereotype to those who were visually impaired.[168] On the 36th-season premiere of Saturday Night Live (aired September 25, 2010), Paterson appeared in the Weekend Update sketch alongside Fred Armisen, who was comedically portraying Paterson.[169]

2010 gubernatorial campaignEdit

In October 2008 Paterson announced his intentions to run for a full term as governor and launched a campaign website.[170] Early speculation focused on an upstate Democrat—outgoing Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll—as a potential running mate.[171] Paterson's prime Republican opposition was expected to be from former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.[172] By February 2009, after the prolonged Senate appointment process, a Siena College poll indicated that Paterson was losing popularity among New Yorkers, and showed Giuliani with a fifteen-point lead in a hypothetical contest.[173] In April 2009, a poll of 1,528 New York State registered voters taken by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that 60 percent disapproved of the job Paterson was doing (the worst-ever rating for a New York governor), with 53 percent stating that Paterson should withdraw his candidacy for the gubernatorial election.[174] On August 21, in a radio interview, Paterson suggested that his low popularity was due to racism, and mentioned Massachusetts' Deval Patrick as receiving the same treatment.[175][176] Paterson also said that President Barack Obama would be the next African-American elected official to suffer from poor approval due to his skin color. The White House asked Paterson to tone down his comments on race, but less than 24 hours later, Paterson said: "Part of what I feel is that one very successful minority is permissible; but when you see too many success stories, then some people get nervous."[177]

On September 18, 2009, advisors to President Barack Obama informed Paterson that the President believed Paterson should withdraw his 2010 gubernatorial candidacy, stepping aside for "popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo."[178] The New York Times reported that Obama was worried that Paterson's continued unpopularity would drag on the 26 Democratic members of New York's 29-member congressional delegation and potentially reverse the existing Democratic control of the state legislature. Furthermore, the Times cited a potential gubernatorial run by Rudolph Giuliani as a reason for the Obama administration's request. On September 19, 2009 Paterson insisted he was still running, even knowing he could face a primary challenge from Andrew Cuomo if he continued to seek election,[179] and reiterated his insistence on February 9, 2010 ("the only way I'm not going to be governor next year is at the ballot box and the only way I'll be leaving office before is in a box").[180] On February 26, 2010, Paterson officially withdrew his bid for a full term as governor of New York.[7]

Later careerEdit

Radio careerEdit

After leaving office at the end of 2010, Paterson appeared on New York radio station WOR on a number of occasions as a substitute talk show host, filling in for morning host John Gambling.[181] On September 1, 2011, the station announced that Paterson would become the regular weekday afternoon drive-time host beginning on September 6.[182] He replaced Steve Malzberg. In December 2012, Paterson was let go from his radio show at WOR after the station was purchased by Clear Channel.[183]

Other positionsEdit

Paterson was appointed in 2013 to be a distinguished professor of health care and public policy, at Touro College, in Harlem, and to advise the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine on public policy issues.[184] He is also a director for investments with Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, a financial services holding company.[185]


Paterson dated Michelle Paige in college. After he broke up with her, she went on to marry someone else, have a daughter, and get divorced. In 1992, Paterson married Michelle. Two years later, they had a son, named Alex.[186]

Paterson and Michelle had an up-and-down marriage, which included affairs they later admitted to. The couple separated in 2012, and amicably filed for divorce in 2014.[187]

Paterson reportedly dated a member of his staff, Pamela Bane, from 2012 to 2014.[188]

Paterson then began to date Mary Sliwa, one of the former wives of Curtis Sliwa. Curtis Sliwa tweeted out his "approval" of the relationship in 2015.[189] Paterson got engaged to Mary Sliwa in 2019.[189]


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External linksEdit

New York State Senate
Preceded by
Leon Bogues
Member of the New York State Senate
29th district

Succeeded by
Thomas Duane
Preceded by
Eric Schneiderman
Member of the New York State Senate
30th district

Succeeded by
Bill Perkins
Preceded by
Martin Connor
Minority Leader of the New York State Senate
Succeeded by
Malcolm Smith
Political offices
Preceded by
Mary Donohue
Lieutenant Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Joseph Bruno
Preceded by
Eliot Spitzer
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Andrew Cuomo
Party political offices
Preceded by
Keith L. T. Wright
Chair of the New York Democratic Committee
Succeeded by
Sheila Comar