HEMPSTEAD - (AP) - David Paterson launched his campaign fora full four-year term as New York's governor with a combativecampaign speech that mocked recent reports about his jobperformance and personal life.
"After all you have heard, there's one rumor I will confirm, Iam running for governor this year," Paterson said to a crowd ofabout 400 at Hofstra University. "They haven't knocked us down yetand they never will."
Paterson becomes the first Democrat in the race, but probablynot the last.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is expected to challenge Patersonin a primary. Cuomo is more popular in polls, among Democrats and,perhaps most importantly, with well-heeled campaign donors. He'scurrently sitting on a $16 million campaign account and hasn't evensaid yet whether he'll run; Paterson has about $3 million.
Paterson became governor in March 2008 after Eliot Spitzerresigned amid a prostitution scandal. Early on, the "accidentalgovernor" won warm reviews for his collegial relations with thelegislature, where he spent 20 years as a dealmaking senator. Itwas a sharp contrast to the surly Spitzer who tried unsuccessfullyto bully his agenda through the partisan state Capitol.
Voters, too, seemed to like the affable Paterson, respondingfavorably to his calls for fiscal restraint and unique televisedaddress, warning of financial calamity unless lawmakers got seriousabout cutting spending.
Then, a series of missteps started to chip away at hispopularity. His chief of staff admitted not paying income taxes forfive years and ultimately resigned. In January 2008, Paterson waspanned for his muffed handling of a U.S. Senate replacement forSecretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The early front-runner, Caroline Kennedy, made a messywithdrawal from consideration and a person close to Paterson laterleaked information to try to smear her, angering America'spre-eminent Democratic family and others within the party. Thegovernor ultimately chose a little known upstate representative,Kirsten Gillibrand, to succeed Clinton.
Amid the clamor, he wasn't getting his agenda or his fiscalcontrols through the legislature. Democrats bickered about theirnewly won power in the Senate and he was criticized for beingunable to broker a peace. Special interest groups ran multimilliondollar TV ads that can punish even a governor who's riding high inthe polls, and Paterson wasn't.
For the past two weeks, aides have been knocking downunsubstantiated rumors about his personal life and this weekpublicly criticized a lengthy New York Times profile that portrayedhim as distracted and disengaged.
On the Republican side, former Long Island congressman RickLazio is the only declared candidate.