Profile: New York Lt. Governor David Paterson

Paterson will become New York's first black governor, following Spitzer's resignation
March 13, 2008 3:15:01 AM PDT
Governor Eliot Spitzer has resigned and will be replaced, effective Monday, March 17, by Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who becomes New York's first black governor. He will be the state's first legally blind governor and its first disabled The scandal erupted Monday when allegations surfaced that the 48-year-old father of three teen daughters spent thousands of dollars on a call girl at a swanky Washington hotel on the night before Valentine's Day.

At a morning news conference, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Spitzer's chief rival, said he had not yet heard from the governor but that he was moving on with the business of the state. Lawmakers were set to vote on budget bills Wednesday afternoon.

"We are going to partner with the lieutenant governor when he becomes governor," said Bruno. "David has always been very open with me, very forthright ... I look forward to a positive, productive relationship."

Barely known outside of his Harlem political base, Paterson, 53, has been in New York government since his election to the state Senate in 1985. He led the Democratic caucus in the Senate before running with Spitzer as his No. 2.

In 2006 David Paterson made history when voters elected him New York's first African-American lieutenant governor.

Some would say Paterson has made history throughout his career. Elected to the state senate in 1985, Paterson represented Harlem.

As a state senator he led the charge on a wide range of issues from stem cell research to using alternative energy and domestic violence.

In 2002 he became the first African-American elected as minority leader in the New York State senate and in 2004 he became the first blind person to address a Democratic National Convention.

Lt. Governor Paterson is legally blind and is recognized as a leading advocate for the visually and physically impaired. He is a graduate of Columbia and Hofstra Law School and comes from a line of politicians. His father Basil was the first African-American secretary of state of New York.

Paterson, 53, is the son of former state Sen. Basil Paterson, a member of the storied "Harlem Clubhouse" that includes fellow Democrats U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and former New York City Mayor David Dinkins. The elder Paterson was the first in the family to run for lieutenant governor in 1970. He lost, but later became New York's first black secretary of state.

After earning degrees from Columbia University and Hofstra Law School, he worked for the Queens district attorney's office and was elected to the state Senate in 1985 at the age of 31. He built a reputation for working hard in a place where not everyone does. Though he can read for brief periods, Paterson usually has aides read to him. He also has developed the ability to remember entire speeches and policy arcana.

He lives in Harlem with his wife Michelle and their two children.

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