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Day of Uncertainty at Capitol, as Calls Grow for Paterson's Resignation
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, NY – It was a day of uncertainty at the State Capitol, as Governor David Paterson remained secluded at the governor's mansion. There were more calls for his resignation, over a deepening scandal involving a domestic violence incident concerning one of Paterson's top aids.
For the second day in a row, Governor David Paterson remained secluded at the governor's mansion in Albany, visited by groups of Democratic lawmakers and the state's party chairman. The governor has not come to his office at the Capitol since announcing last Friday that he would not seek re-election, as a scandal concerning a top aid's involvement in an alleged domestic violence incident deepened.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the governor had direct involvement in ordering his staff to contact the woman who had alleged that Paterson top aid David Johnson had assaulted her last Halloween night. The paper said Paterson directed his press secretary to call the woman, to ask her to come forward and publicly describe the incident as non violent. The Times says the governor also asked another state employee, who knows both the governor and the alleged victim, to ask the woman to contact him before she went to court to seek an order of protection. After the phone conversation took place, the woman did not show up at her court appearance and the case was dismissed.
Neither the governor nor his staff had any comment.
The legislature met for session, but the growing scandal proved a major distraction, with more lawmakers openly calling for Paterson to step down. Senator Craig Johnson, a Democrat from Long Island, says the governor needs to think "long and hard" about what's best for the people of the state.
"If the allegations are true, I think it's time for David Paterson to have a little bit of soul searching, and realize that the residents of New York may be better off with somebody else as governor," Johnson said.
Senator Johnson says Paterson should emulate former Governor Eliot Spitzer in one respect- leave promptly and spare the state further drama.
"We can't afford to be paralyzed in this state," Johnson said.
The New York State Chapter of the National Organization for Women is now calling on Paterson to resign. A few days ago the group's President had said she wanted to wait and see if the allegations were true.
Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch, who was at work at the Capitol, says he doesn't think it's time for Paterson to go.
"I'm not aware of any compelling reason for him to resign," Ravitch said.
Ravitch, who is next in the line of secession, denied that he was preparing to take over as governor, but hinted there might be more going on behind the scenes.
"Whatever I know I'm not going to share with you at this point," said Ravitch. "It would not be appropriate."
Asked whether he thought the governor would resign, Ravitch would only say "the governor will end up doing what he thinks is best" for the people of the state. And the Lieutenant Governor offered a plea to the media and state lawmakers to start concentrating on the state's massive fiscal crisis. New York faces a $9 and half billion dollar deficit, and the budget is due in a month.
"We've never faced anything like this before, we're in a perfect storm," said Ravitch. "Everybody's attention should be on that."
Meanwhile at the mansion, Governor Paterson held a private meeting with legislative leaders. Afterwards, the leaders did not comment on the focus of their discussions. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver shouted through his car window that he did not think the governor should resign. Senate Leader John Sampson merely honked his horn.
The governor was also visited by his own handpicked State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs. Jacobs drove from his home on Long Island to Albany for the meeting saying he was concerned over the growing "frenzy and uncertainty", saying this is a "political crisis that needs resolution and needs action".
"It cannot be resolved by just letting time go by and this will go away," said Jacobs, who said he told the governor he needed to "confront" the problem.
The last time Jacobs had such a talk with Paterson was last Thursday evening. The next day, Paterson gave up his election campaign. This time, Jacobs says there's no rush to judgment, and that he believes Paterson still has time to explain his side of the story, and to demonstrate that he can govern.
Late in the day, the governor finally came to the Capitol to attend a reception for women and minority owned small businesses. He did not meet with reporters, but his staff says he will attend a cabinet meeting with his top agency heads on Wednesday.