David Alexander Paterson (born May 20, 1954) is an American politician. He was the 55th Governor of New York, in office from 2008 to 2010. He was the first African American governor of New York and also the second legally blind governor of any U.S. state after Bob C. Riley, who was Acting Governor of Arkansas for 11 days in January 1975. 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.
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. 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.
When Spitzer resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal, Paterson was sworn in as governor of New York on March 17, 2008. 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.
Early life and background
David Paterson was born in Brooklyn to Portia Paterson, a homemaker, and labor law attorney Basil Paterson. Basil Paterson was later a New York state senator and secretary of state, and served as deputy mayor of New York City. 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. His father is half Afro-Jamaican. His paternal grandmother, a Jamaican, Evangeline Rondon Paterson was secretary to Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. His paternal grandfather was Leonard James Paterson, a native of Carriacou who arrived in the United States aboard the S.S. Vestris on May 16, 1917. It was reported by The Genetic Genealogist in March 2008 that Paterson had recently undergone genetic genealogy testing. Part of his father's ancestry consists of immigrants from England, Ireland, and Scotland, while his mother's side includes European ancestry, as well as ancestors from the Guinea-Bissau region of West Africa.
At the age of three months, Paterson contracted an ear infection which spread to his optic nerve, leaving him with no sight in his left eye and severely limited vision in his right. 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.
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. 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. Upon his election, Paterson became the youngest State Senator in Albany. He was re-elected many 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.
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.
First day as governor
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. 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. He stated in his inauguration speech that it would be his top priority.
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." 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".
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.
He went on to ask for letters of resignation from all of his top staff members and state-agency commissioners. This typical action does not mean the hold overs from the Spitzer administration will be replaced, and Paterson said that "having the letters gives him the flexibility to make changes if he decides to".
Allegations against the Paterson administration
In February 2010, allegations were made that the Paterson administration may have been involved in witness tampering in a domestic abuse case involving staffer David W. Johnson after New York State Police and his staffers 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.
On December 20, 2010, the Commission on Public Integrity, saying Paterson had lied about the accepting five World Series tickets, fined Paterson $62,125.