Photo: Tim Roske/AP, File
Lieutenant governors are often historical footnotes in New York, but that all changed for David Paterson when Eliot Spitzer resigned in spectacular fashion in a sex scandal.
In his new memoir “Black, Blind and In Charge,” Paterson recalls the day Spitzer was set to resign, noting the governor didn't even call him.
“Zack, my relationship with him was very good," Paterson said. "I think the reason he didn’t call me is because the minute he calls me, it really finalizes that he has to leave. That would be a very difficult call for me to make if I were in a similar situation.”
Paterson made some consequential decisions during his time in office, including the appointment of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who replaced Hillary Clinton, who left the post to become secretary of state in the Obama administration.
Paterson says in hindsight, he would have done it differently.
“I don’t think the governor should have the power to make someone a United States senator," he said. "People spend a lot of money and work very hard and build their careers. In other words, someone would agree to hold the seat, then step away and let the public decide.”
Paterson also reveals some of the sausage-making in the state Capitol, and recalls huddling with the late former Senate majority leader Joe Bruno and Former Assembly speaker Sheldon silver to hammer out their first state budget in March of 2008.
“On a Sunday morning in Albany, I’m waiting for the two leaders to meet with me," he said. "Bruno was there at 10, on time. They told me Silver is going to the airport, then they tell me he is flying to Washington and back to Albany to clock mileage for whatever reason, I don’t know. And I was absolutely annoyed.”
When the time came to face voters himself in 2010, Paterson opted not to run. He says he lost a lot of allies he had previously had in the legislature.
“I was a colleague of theirs for a long time and always stood up for the right issues, but when I became governo,r I was in a completely different situation," he said. "If I had not cut $21 billion that year, and eventually $40 billion during the short time I was in office, this state may very well have gone into default.”
Paterson steered New York through one of the worst financial crises in the state’s history. He was succeeded by current Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011.