|Governor of New York|
|March 2008-December 2010|
|Predecessor||Eliot Spitzer (D)|
|New York State Senate Minority Leader|
|Lieutenant Governor of New York|
|New York State Senate|
|Birthday||May 20, 1954|
During his short tenure as governor, Paterson was one of two black governors in the United States, the other being Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. It was the first time in U.S. history that two black governors served concurrently.
After graduating from 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 nominee Eliot Spitzer in the 2006 New York gubernatorial election. They were elected in November 2006 with 69 percent of the vote, and Paterson took office as Lieutenant Governor on January 1, 2007.
After Spitzer resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal, Paterson was sworn in as governor of New York on March 17, 2008.
David Paterson was born in Brooklyn to Portia and Basil Paterson, later a New York state senator and secretary of state, and deputy mayor of New York City. According to a New York Now Interview, Patterson traces his roots on his mother's side of the family to African Americans of the American colonial era in the American South, primarily in the states of North Carolina and South Carolina. His father is half Jamaican. His father's mother was secretary to Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. 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 Hempstead so that he could attend mainstream classes there. The first disabled student in the Hempstead public schools, he graduated from Hempstead High School in 1971.
Paterson received a bachelor's degree in history from Columbia University in 1977 and a law degree from Hofstra Law School in 1983. After law school, he went to work for the Queens District Attorney's Office, but was unable to complete the New York bar examination, and so did not become an attorney at law. He attributed his failing the New York bar to insufficient accommodation for his visual impairment, and has since advocated for changes in bar exam procedures.
Governor of New York (2008-2010)
Following former Governor Eliot 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.
His swearing-in ceremony was attended by all members of the New York State Senate and New York State Assembly, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, former New York Governors George Pataki and Hugh Carey, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former New York City Mayors David Dinkins and Ed Koch, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, the entire New York Congressional delegation (both Democrats and Republicans), and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, among others. Former Governor Spitzer was not present.
With his swearing-in, Paterson became the first Lieutenant Governor elevated to the governorship in New York due to a vacancy since 1973, when Lieutenant Governor Malcolm Wilson became Governor upon Nelson Rockefeller's resignation.
Paterson was the first African American Governor of New York and the fourth in any U.S. state (following Reconstruction-era Louisiana Gov. P. B. S. Pinchback, former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, and current Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick). For the first time, two African-American governors served simultaneously in the United States (Paterson and Patrick). The Lieutenant Governor's office remained vacant until the term ran out in 2010. Under the state's constitution, the president pro tempore of the state senate, Dean Skelos, a Republican, is next in the line of succession for the Governor's office.
- Day one 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."
Personal life controversy
One day after Paterson's inauguration as governor, both he and his wife acknowledged having had extramarital affairs, one with a state employee. Paterson's self-admissions are in contravention to what the press has dubbed the "Bear Mountain Compact," an unwritten pact among lawmakers that their transgressions north of the Bear Mountain Bridge will not be reported south of it.
- 2008-09 executive budget
Governor Paterson revised Governor 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." 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.
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. 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. Governor 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.
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." Even though the budget enacted was the first in a decade that included less spending than the proposal, and Paterson promised to slash next year's state budget by 5 to 10 percent, because the spending plan he inherited was "too big and too bloated." The accidental nature of Paterson's ascension may have hampered his involvement in this year's process to some degree, but he told the New York Times that "I think we passed a sound budget, but I don’t think that we left ourselves enough room."
- Same-sex marriage directive
In May 2008, Governor Paterson informed New York State agencies that they were required to recognize same-sex marriage licenses from other jurisdictions for purposes of employee benefits. The governor's directive was purportedly based upon a decision from a New York intermediate appellate court. The governor's directive did not receive widespread public attention until weeks after the directive was given. At that time, the governor's decision provoked public reaction on both sides of the issue. While Governor Paterson's directive received widespread approbation from same-sex marriage supporters, it was met with criticism from conservative legislators and from traditional marriage advocates, one of whom referred to the directive as Governor Paterson's "first major blunder." Then-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and others accused Governor Paterson of having overstepped his bounds and usurped the authority of the Legislature. Governor 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. One poll showed that a majority of New Yorkers supported the directive, but that (in an apparent contradiction) a majority believed that the decision should have been made by the New York State Legislature.
On September 2, 2008, Justice Lucy A. Billings, of the State Supreme Court in the Bronx, NY, issued a decision that Governor Paterson acted within his powers when he required state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages from outside NY 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. An appeal is planned.
- 2008 New York fiscal crisis
In July of 2008, Paterson warned state lawmakers and citizens of New York that the state faced its worst fiscal crisis since the 1970s. On Tuesday, July 29, Governor 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 dollars 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. He also warned that the budget deficit was estimated to grow 22 percent over by 2011, and called for the special legislative session on August 19 to deal with the crisis. 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. He hit the cable networks early and was quoted by media around the world. The previous day, Paterson had loosened regulations to allow AIG to draw reserves from its subsidiaries.
Lieutenant Governor of New York (2007-2008)
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. During their 2006 campaign, Paterson resolved a dispute with Spitzer over turf wars between staff members. 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.
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. During his time as Lieutenant Governor, Paterson also served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School for International and Public Affairs.
- 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. The New York State Legislature had opposed funding the research, and it remains controversial.
- Voting rights
- In September of 2007, Paterson weighed in on a proposal before the New York City Council to extend voting rights to noncitizens. He told a crowd gathered at the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade that he believed noncitizens should be granted voting rights. 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. Governor 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. Paterson had tried to introduce legislation granting voting rights to noncitizens as a State Senator fifteen years earlier.
- Lawsuit over bias allegation
- In February 2008, a U.S. District Judge denied a motion to dismiss a racial discrimination lawsuit naming Paterson. A former staff photographer, a Caucasian male, claimed that he was the victim of discrimination in 2005 when Paterson's office replaced him with an 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."
State Senate (1985-2007)
In 1985, Paterson resigned his position as assistant district attorney to 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. That October, Paterson won the hotly contested 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 won the seat again in 1986 for a full term representing the 29th District in the New York State Senate, and served as senator until assuming the office of Lieutenant Governor on January 1, 2007.
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 African American 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.
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." Describing Paterson's tenure in the senate, The New York Times cited his "wit, flurries of reform proposals and unusual bursts of candor."
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