Former Lieut. Gov. David A. Paterson yesterday became governor of New York after Eliot Spitzer stepped down on March 12 following allegations that he was a client of a prostitution ring. Paterson is the first black and legally blind person to be governor of New York.
New York Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye swore in Paterson, a Democrat, at a joint session of the state's Legislature in Albany, where his wife and two children, members of the Assembly and Senate, former governors, and former lieutenant governors were in attendance. Also present were U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and other mayors from throughout the state, as well as governors John Corzine of New Jersey, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, and M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut.
Paterson asked Rell, "How did you do it?" acknowledging the similar way she initially took office as governor. Rell, who had been lieutenant governor, took office in 2004 after Gov. John G. Rowland resigned during a corruption investigation. He later pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to collect gifts and services from businesses that received lucrative contracts and tax breaks from his administration. Rowland served 10 months in federal prison, followed by four months of house arrest.
"Ladies and gentleman and fellow New Yorkers: in so many ways we woke this morning to a not-so-ordinary day," Paterson said in his inauguration speech. "But in one way, we woke this morning to a New York dawn that is like every one that came before it. For today, like we always do - in spite of obstacles and circumstances - we move forward."
"This transition today is an historic message to the world that we live among the same values that we profess and that we are a government of laws and not individuals," Paterson said. "Today, we can be proud of our democracy."
Paterson noted that it had been a difficult week and that there would be anxiousness in weeks to come as he addresses pressing matters, including passing the state budget with the Legislature by April 1.
"But we move forward," he said. "Today is Monday, there is work to be done, there was an oath to be taken, there was trust that needs to be restored, there are issues that need to be addressed."
While state officials have said there will not be a great deal of turnover in Paterson's administration from Spitzer's, one change occurred Sunday. Empire State Development Corp. chairmanPatrick J. Foye submitted his resignation letter.
"Given [Spitzer's] resignation and my belief that you deserve to work with a team of your choosing, I have determined that it is timely for me to resign and return to the private sector," Foye said in his resignation letter. Foye said he would be available to spend as much time as needed to ensure a seamless transition.
The Senate president and acting lieutenant governor, Joseph L. Bruno, a Republican, said in a press conference yesterday that he looked forward to working with Paterson. With the proposed budget of $124.3 billion on the table, the Legislature, now working with Paterson, is still trying to make its deadline.
"We can get a budget done," Bruno said. "If there's a will to get a budget done in the next two weeks, we can get it done."