ALBANY - This may be the most critical week of Gov. David A. Paterson's nearly 25 years in politics.
Democratic Party bosses are clamoring for a detailed, public rebuttal within a few days to the scandals engulfing him. Meanwhile, his schedule is filled with events aimed at reassuring lawmakers and the public that he can still tackle the state's $9.1-billion budget deficit.
Experts said his performance this week will go a long way toward determining whether he can continue to withstand the intense pressure to resign.
Paterson appears to have won a brief reprieve from that pressure, thanks to the Rev. Al Sharpton. The Harlem minister convened a meeting last Thursday of black, Hispanic and Asian officials who agreed Paterson shouldn't be compelled to step down without due process.
"I don't see how he comes back from this," said Kenneth Sherrill, a politics professor at Hunter College in Manhattan, "but without that meeting in his home base he would be dead now."
Concern about gridlock
However, legislative leaders worry the gridlock caused by Paterson's travails will delay adoption of the 2010-11 budget beyond the April 1 deadline. State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the minority leader, suggested the governor must produce results this week or face a possible ultimatum.
"What we have to do as legislative leaders . . . we have to assess within the next week or so whether in our estimation he can continue to govern." Skelos said. "Whether we can get some serious budget negotiations going."
But Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic chief, disagreed, saying a rush to judgment about Paterson's alleged transgressions would undermine democracy. "There's an investigation, let's see the results," Sampson said. "At that point in time we will react."
Meanwhile, the governor announced Friday he would hold a public hearing on New York's fiscal woes Monday morning in Brooklyn. Then it's back to the Capitol for a forum on a proposed tax on sugary beverages, followed by a private meeting with Catholic bishops.
On Tuesday, Paterson and legislative leaders are expected to meet publicly about the budget. On Wednesday, the governor will give a budget speech to the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association.
Increase in public events
The appearances come after Paterson had no public events four days last week.
"These actions are appropriate for a governor, but the problem for Paterson is they aren't in keeping with his previous behavior," said Douglas Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College in Manhattan. "He hasn't been engaged in the process for the most part. So, people will see this as a show."
Paterson, at the Friday opening of a restaurant/bar in JFK Airport, shot back, saying his schedule hadn't been bulked up. "I'm not making any more public appearances than I've been making. But I'm happy you've joined me to see how hard I work," he told reporters.
What Paterson does behind closed doors in the Capitol, namely budget talks, will likely have a greater impact on his future, experts said. If results are achieved over the next five days, then the legislative chieftains will continue to back Paterson until results of Cuomo's probe are released, the experts said.
"The governor may be able to hang on a little while longer if he can show things are getting done," said pollster Maurice Carroll of Quinnipiac University. "But in the long run, I don't see him surviving."
Carroll and others also said Paterson's position would be helped by a major news event that knocks him off the front pages of newspapers and the beginning of TV newscasts.
"The governor is under tremendous pressure in part because every day there's another story . . . It's death by a thousand cuts," Carroll said. "The best thing that could happen to him this week is something else happens to divert the attention of the Albany press corps."
Paterson's schedule this week
11 a.m., town hall meeting in Brooklyn about 2010-11 budget
2 p.m., forum in Albany on combating obesity
with a proposed tax on sugary beverages
3 p.m., meeting in Albany with state's Catholic bishops
Public meeting in Albany with legislative leaders to discuss the 2010-11 budget
8:30 a.m., speaks about the fiscal crisis to the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association's annual meeting
SOURCE: NYS governor's office, announcements from event sponsors
- Compiled by James T. Madore