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Allegations lead Paterson to scrap campaign

FILE - Governor David Paterson raised his hand

FILE - Governor David Paterson raised his hand during a news conference and said "I have never abused my office, not now, not ever." During the conference, Paterson announced he would not seek election. (Feb. 26, 2010) Photo Credit: CRAIG RUTTLE

ALBANY - Amid allegations that his administration interfered with a domestic violence case involving an aide, Gov. David A. Paterson on Friday scrapped his election campaign only six days after launching it in Hempstead.

Reaction from political leaders was mixed. Some praised Paterson for putting the state's interests before his career. Others called for transferring budget-making powers to the lieutenant governor because Paterson has been weakened by the controversy. A few said he should resign.

Paterson vowed to serve out his term, which expires Dec. 31. He denied acting improperly in the domestic violence case involving longtime aide David Johnson. He said he would focus on closing next year's projected $8.2-billion budget deficit and creating jobs.

"Today, I'm announcing that I'm ending my campaign for governor," Paterson told reporters at his Manhattan office.

"It has become increasingly clear to me in the last few days that I cannot run for office and try to manage the state's business at the same time," he continued. "And right now, New York State needs a leader who can devote full time to [its] service."

Paterson's exit paves the way for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to receive the Democratic nomination for governor. Democrats have wanted Cuomo to top the party's ticket for a year since Paterson's poll numbers began tanking.

Political experts said Paterson had little recourse after facing dim prospects for raising money to replenish his campaign treasury. "The public has a lot of problems with David Paterson," said pollster Steven Greenberg of the Siena Research Institute. "They don't think he's an effective governor and they don't think he's getting things done on their behalf."

Cuomo on Friday gave no indication of his future. "This is an election year and I will announce my plans at the appropriate time," he said. "In the meantime, I will continue to focus on my job as attorney general and the many important issues we are pursuing."

One of these issues is an investigation - requested by Paterson - of whether the governor and State Police tried to influence a woman who had accused Johnson of assault. After speaking with Paterson this month, she did not show up for a Family Court proceeding and her request for an order of protection was dismissed, according to The New York Times.

Given the probe, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Paterson should designate Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch to hammer out the 2010-11 budget with lawmakers. Ravitch, credited with helping New York City avert bankruptcy in the mid-1970s, "has the integrity and experience to negotiate what will be a very difficult budget," said DiNapoli, of Great Neck.

But state Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem), who holds the seat Paterson held for 21 years, said the governor should resign. So did New York City Comptroller John C. Liu.

At his news conference, Paterson tried to dampen such speculation, noting that there were 308 days left in his term.

He defiantly said he did nothing improper in the domestic violence case. Raising his right hand, he said, "I give you this personal oath. I have never abused my office - not now, not ever. I believe that when the facts are reviewed the truth will prevail."

Johnson, who has been suspended from his $132,000 job, was unavailable for comment.

Leaders of the State Legislature's Democratic majorities declined to comment.

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