Embattled New York Governor (I don’t know, “embattled” seems like the wrong word here, but I’ll press on. . . ) David Paterson will not run for election this fall, the New York Daily News is reporting. Paterson, long suffering from low approval ratings, an uncooperative State legislature, and a fiscal crisis, has been dogged this month by stories of questionable conduct by a close aide, David Johnson—and earlier this week, that story escalated to include the Governor, himself:
Last fall, a woman went to court in the Bronx to testify that she had been violently assaulted by a top aide to Gov. David A. Paterson, and to seek a protective order against the man.
In the ensuing months, she returned to court twice to press her case, complaining that the State Police had been harassing her to drop it. The State Police, which had no jurisdiction in the matter, confirmed that the woman was visited by a member of the governor’s personal security detail.
Then, just before she was due to return to court to seek a final protective order, the woman got a phone call from the governor, according to her lawyer. She failed to appear for her next hearing on Feb. 8, and as a result her case was dismissed.
Though the drip, drip, drip of this story began several weeks ago, Paterson still chose just last week to launch his bid for a first full term as NY Governor. Paterson originally took office after the previous Governor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned.
Paterson swore to press on as recently as Wednesday, but several close aids have gone public in the last 24 hours with calls for Paterson to withdraw from the race. Notably, State Senator Bill Perkins, who holds Paterson’s old seat in Harlem:
Amid accusations that Paterson and the New York State Police intervened in a domestic violence case against one of Paterson’s top aides, Perkins said in an interview Thursday evening that the governor’s campaign has weakened, and this could be the final straw.
“Weak as the campaign was, this investigation has made it even weaker,” he said.
Denise O’Donnell, the governor’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, resigned on Thursday, saying she could not defend Paterson’s actions:
“The fact that the governor and members of the State Police have acknowledged direct contact with a woman who had filed for an order of protection against a senior member of the governor’s staff is a very serious matter,” she wrote. “These actions are unacceptable regardless of their intent.”
Ms. O’Donnell, a former federal prosecutor and social worker, wrote that she found the breach “particularly distressing” in an administration “that prides itself on its record of combating domestic violence.
“The behavior alleged here is the antithesis of what many of us have spent our entire careers working to build,” she added, “a legal system that protects victims of domestic violence and brings offenders to justice.”
O’Donnell’s office oversees the state troopers that are alleged to have participated in harassing the woman accuser of Johnson.
The governor has long been thought vulnerable to a primary challenge from State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, though Cuomo has not officially entered the race. Whispers around New York suspect that Cuomo or his close associates have something to do with driving the story of Paterson’s aide to the surface, a rumor made public by announced GOP aspirant for NY Governor, Rick Lazio:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio released the letter below addressed to possible opponent AG Andrew Cuomo. In it, the ex-Congressman seems bent on fueling the rumor that Cuomo spread rumors about Paterson. Since he knows the Timesfolk aren’t about tell who they talk to off-the-record about anything — including Lazio, presumably — and Cuomo isn’t going to answer questions from his political detractor related to a pending investigation, the intended effect must be to make the rumor-spread accusation in the form of a “request.”
“The people have the right to know the truth behind the allegations that were reported in today’s New York Times. The people also have the right to know that your investigation into Governor Paterson and his involvement is conducted honestly and objectively.
“As you begin your investigation, I ask that you state publicly whether you or any of your associates, members of your office or campaign team aided or supplied the New York Times the information it published in any of its stories this past week attacking Governor Paterson, his staff and his conduct; or if you or any of your agents were involved in spreading the rumors about such stories. If so, common decency, if not the law, would demand you recuse yourself from this investigation to ensure an independent process free of your political ambition.
Paterson’s anemic fundraising has also cast doubt on his electoral viability.
Though suspending his run for a full term, Governor Paterson is not, as of now, resigning.
So, what is considered a socially acceptable amount of time for Cuomo to announce his entrance into the race?
Update: I should have known that David would have something on this. . . .
Update 2 ( 3:18 PM EST): In a just completed news conference, Governor Paterson confirmed that he is indeed ending his campaign for a full term. Citing political realities, Paterson said that he wants to get back to the business of the state, and that he looks forward to a full investigation of the accusations leveled against him and his administration.
Paterson is not, however resigning, “There are 308 days left in my term; I will serve every one of them. . . .”
Update 3: Governor Paterson called on the state AG, Andrew Cuomo, to investigate the improprieties of the state police and the governor’s office. Cuomo, of course, has been itching to run again for governor since his last failed attempt eight years ago. Back then, Cuomo was criticized for complicating matters for eventual Democratic nominee, H. Carl McCall, the first African American to run for NY governor. It was an open secret around the state that Cuomo was not eager to be seen as again trying to push aside an African American in his quest for higher office.
Since Cuomo is now tasked with investigating Paterson, the question arises: Does he go softer on the governor for having done him the favor of stepping aside, or does Cuomo now feel extra pressure to give extra scrutiny to the governor’s actions, in order to prove that no kind of deal was made?