Paterson To Quit Governor's Race: Report [UPDATE]
UPDATE 9:51 am: With his steadfast denials weakening, the New York Daily News reports that Governor Paterson will not seek reelection.
The beleaguered governor has come under heavy fire from both sides of the political aisle since news of his meddling in a domestic violence case involving a top staffer.
Keep checking back for more details...
ALBANY, N.Y. (Associated Press - Democratic Gov. David Paterson, bedeviled by a domestic-violence scandal involving a top aide and lacking support in his own party, has found himself severely weakened as he tries to save the state from insolvency and run for a full term in the fall.
Even longtime friends say he may not be able to do both.
On Thursday, Paterson was hit by press reports that he and state police had contacted a woman involved in a Halloween confrontation with one of his advisers at her home. That prompted some key Democrats from Washington to New York to urge Paterson to drop his underdog bid for election.
Hours later, Paterson's criminal justice czar resigned, saying that she was misled by Paterson's appointed state police superintendent and that any contact by the governor and state police with the woman was "unacceptable regardless of their intent."
Now, Paterson finds himself hamstrung from taking action on the state's fiscal crisis that helped his cellar-dwelling polls before. He's not even meeting with legislative leaders in his own party with whom he needs to negotiate a budget by April 1.
Worried about Paterson at the top of the ticket, low in the polls and underfunded, the legislative leaders have given him little support in recent tumultuous weeks.
His campaign, formally announced just days ago, is threatened, and his ability to balance the budget is weakened. In the face of it all, Paterson remained defiant but left the door open to change.
"I'm not suspending my campaign," Paterson told reporters in Manhattan, "but I am talking to a number of elected officials around the state."
Sen. Bill Perkins, a Democrat representing Paterson's old Harlem district, is among top Democrats who want the governor to end his candidacy.
"The crisis we are suffering in this state and in the community is being distracted by these reports and very, very serious allegations," Perkins said. "What we are learning is unacceptable, and the viability of his candidacy is obviously crippling."
Perkins said he and other longtime friends of Paterson are urging he drop his campaign, especially in light of the resignation of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Denise O'Donnell.
"The cabinet, so to speak, is falling apart," Perkins said.
The New York Times reported Wednesday on court papers showing a phone call between state police and the woman who accused Paterson's aide, who was her boyfriend at the time. Paterson's office acknowledges he talked to the woman but says she placed the call, and a spokesman for the governor denied anyone tried to keep the woman from pursuing a domestic-violence case.
Paterson suspended the aide, David Johnson, without pay on Wednesday and hasn't made Johnson available to comment or answer questions. He had no immediate comment about O'Donnell's resignation.
The state police said in a news release that they won't comment on any aspect of the case during an investigation by the office of Andrew Cuomo, the popular attorney general whom many would like to see run as the Democratic candidate for governor instead of Paterson.
The state police said Cuomo asked the agency not to open its own internal probe.
Rick Lazio, a Republican candidate for governor, said Cuomo should tell New Yorkers if any of his staff gave the Times any information for the Johnson story.
Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat and longtime congressional member from Long Island, said it's time for friends to be straight with Paterson.
"I think it's become apparent that he should not seek election and should announce it soon," Israel said. "And sometimes friends have to speak unpleasant truths."
Johnson, 37, has worked for Paterson for more than a decade, beginning when Paterson was a state senator. Johnson began as an intern as part of Paterson's effort to help youths with arrest records stemming from the crack epidemic in Harlem at the time.
The turmoil stems from a Halloween 2009 argument between Johnson and Sherruna Booker, 40, according to a police report. The woman told police Johnson was angry about her costume, choked her, tried to rip the clothing from her body and pushed her into a mirror.
Booker appeared in Family Court three times after she filed the police report Oct. 31. She dropped her case abruptly on Feb. 8, when she didn't show up at court.
Booker's lawyer didn't comment despite repeated attempts to reach him by telephone.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Cristian Salazar in New York and Michael Virtanen and Michael Hill in Albany contributed to this report.