Video: Paterson: ‘I’m running for governor’

  1. Transcript of: Paterson: ‘I’m running for governor’

    MR. GREGORY: So you agree with that poll that found 62 percent of New Yorkers believe that the Obama administration was wrong to intervene.

    GOV. PATERSON: Well, what I agree with is that the overwhelming number of, of people in the poll would like to make that decision for themselves. I'll be running. And I, like other governors, want to make the case for why we've had to make the difficult decisions that we have made.

    MR. GREGORY: But let me ask about your reaction, because it was your wife who told the New York Post on Wednesday that you were stunned after these conversations at the White House . "[ Michelle ] Paterson said her husband was shocked at the request." Quoting her, "`I think he was stunned. Like I said, this was very unusual.'" What stunned you?

    GOV. PATERSON: Michelle is very protective of me. I don't know that I was stunned. I am not. I am not failing to stand up for my party; I fight for the priorities of my party. I am fighting for the people of the state of New York , who are having a very difficult time right now, I dare say a lot more difficult than I am. So I'm not going to run away from a fight when I know who I'm fighting for. And in -- I'm not going to sit here and tell you, David , that I haven't had a difficult week. But I, like a lot of New Yorkers and a lot of Americans, are having difficult weeks because we're having to make tough decisions. And the tough decisions that I've made are that I've had to reduce spending by $30 billion in 18 months as governor.

    MR. GREGORY: And I want to get to that in just a minute, but I want to be clear. If the White House wants you out, you're -- you are undeterred, you are all in, you're running for governor.

    GOV. PATERSON: Well, I'm running for governor for the state of New York . And as I was saying, the $30 billion that I was just talking about that I had to reduce from deficit from the state of New York is more than if you took all five of the state's highest annual deficits and added them all together. I've also had to cut spending by a record amount this year. I've been opposed by the special interests , I've come under a hail of criticism from them for making these tough decisions, and that is what accounts for the low poll numbers. But I wasn't making decision based on polls.

    MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, I want to come back, I want to come back to some of the tough choices you're going to make.

    GOV. PATERSON: I was -- let me just, let me just finish this, David . Let me just finish this. I was making decisions based on what I thought was right for the people of New York . So I put the people of New York first when I balanced two budgets in a recession. And I put...

    MR. GREGORY: All right. But, but let me ask you about that, Governor.

    GOV. PATERSON: And I put New York first when I called for a state spending cap.

    MR. GREGORY: You said the following on Wednesday, talking about how you would think about the future. You said, "I think if I got to a point where I thought my candidacy was hurting my party, obviously it would be rather self-absorbed to go forward." You went on to say, "I am going to keep doing it," in terms of running for governor, "until the public tells me it's time to stop." Governor, your approval ratings, 80 percent of New Yorkers disapprove of the job you're doing. Aren't you a drag on your party?

    GOV. PATERSON: I don't think that I am a drag on my party, I think I'm standing up for my party's priorities. I think that you fight for the people of your state. That's what I thought being a Democrat was suppose to be about. Let me tell you, David , poll numbers? I heard that everyone -- I appointed a lieutenant governor, and I heard -- everyone said that the courts would not uphold my appointment. This week the, the court of appeals of New York upheld my appointment of Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch . I have spent a whole life being told I couldn't do things. I was told by guidance counselors I shouldn't go to college. I was told when I was the minority leader of the Senate that we couldn't win the majority; we won eight seats in four years and won the majority. And so I think that what the court upholding my appointment of lieutenant governor's message to me this week was that you don't give up. You don't give up because you have low poll numbers. You don't give up because everybody's telling what you what the future is. If everyone knew what the future was, why didn't they tell me I was going to become governor? I could have used the heads up.

    MR. GREGORY: The, the opposition -- you talked about race being a factor, racism being a factor against you in some of this opposition, and that in fact President Obama would be subject to the same thing. Is it still how you feel?

    GOV. PATERSON: I think when you hear that quote, you're not hearing everything I said. I was responding to news account of a story involving my daughter. I thought that the story was not only written to attack me personally and criticize my family, but that it also was entirely stereotypical. What I was trying to say is that I don't think someone's race should be the factor in assessing what kind of governor they are, what kind of president they are or what kind of worker they are in any workplace. Rightly or wrongly, I thought that that was a double standard in that coverage. But just in case it got lost in the interview, let me clarify that I don't think race has been a factor in my poll numbers, my political fortunes or how I govern the state. What I think is that we should assess all governors, no matter what color they are, by how they run their states and how they help the people that they work for.

    MR. GREGORY: Quickly, Governor, you talked about it before, the mood that you're facing in New York and indeed the mood around the country has to do with the economy and state

    finances. If you're all in, if you're running for governor, how are you going to balance New York 's budget?

    GOV. PATERSON: Well, our budget is balanced. We have had...

    MR. GREGORY: You face a deficit, potential deficit of $3 billion.

    GOV. PATERSON: Well, we, we had a deficit last year. I gave a televised address to the state, I warned New York and America that this would be the worst recessions since the Great Depression . I brought the legislature back and balanced the budget last year. We balanced the budget earlier this year. And we have continued to balance our budgets.

    Let me tell you, David , what has happened is that other states have had difficulties. Twenty-one states have shut down early childhood education and pre-kindergarten programs. Twenty-five states have laid off or furloughed workers. Some states have even had to release prisoners earlier to save money.

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    GOV. PATERSON: The difference is in New York we have not had to do that, because we knew about this crisis early.

    MR. GREGORY: OK.

    GOV. PATERSON: We brought -- we acted quickly to, to avoid a disaster. And even while we're cutting $30 billion in 18 months, we've continued to invest in education...

    MR. GREGORY: Governor...

    GOV. PATERSON: ...we've expanded COBRA benefits for people who have lost their jobs and we have increased unemployment insurance from 26 weeks to 59 weeks.

    MR. GREGORY: All right, Governor, we will have to leave it there. Good luck in your campaign and thank you very much.

    GOV. PATERSON: Thank you for having me.

By Associated Press Writer
updated 9/27/2009 3:36:52 PM ET 2009-09-27T19:36:52

David Paterson thrived politically as a New York state senator, working his way up in a nearly all-white Albany political structure.

Now, he's governor, and things have never been worse.

For nearly a year, Paterson has been battered by a faltering economy and with poll numbers hovering at record lows. This week, he learned the Obama administration is worried he'll drag other Democrats down in 2010 if he runs for a full term, perhaps even threatening the narrow margin the party needs to ward off filibusters in the U.S. Senate.

These days, Paterson finds himself very much alone.

‘I'm blind, I'm not oblivious’
Paterson said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Obama never directly asked him to step aside, and he wouldn't discuss what presidential aides may have told him confidentially. But the legally blind governor added he's heard the message from Democrats in New York and Washington: "I'm blind, I'm not oblivious."

"But I am running for governor," he said. "I don't think I am a drag on the party. I think I'm fighting for the priorities of my party."

At an Associated Press event in Syracuse last week, Paterson said that when he was Gov. Eliot Spitzer's lieutenant governor, he had never envisioned becoming the state's chief executive.

"I had this grand plan that Hillary Clinton was going to become president," he said. "Maybe the governor would appoint me to the Senate."

In January 2008, that was the plan. Paterson worked to draw black voters to Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. On TV screens and front pages, he was wedged next to President Bill Clinton and closer to the senator than Chelsea.

Democrats thought it was a well-deserved fit for Paterson as a reward for bringing the party close to controlling the state Senate for the first time in decades. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch said Paterson was capable, highly intelligent and courageous. Paterson was the dashing statesman in an otherwise plodding Albany. He was smart, collegial, a reformer, ambitious and funny — on purpose.

Now, for many, he's a punch line.

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Exit scenarios
Even Paterson is starting to talk about exit scenarios.

"I don't think anyone who is clearly hurting their party would take an action like running when it is going to make the party lose," New York's first black governor said. Then he added a shot: "I'm not sure those that are always calling for loyalty in the Democratic Party have been loyal themselves."

Albany's top two legislative Democrats — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Conference Leader John Sampson — last week committed to Paterson "right now" and "until otherwise known." Another Democratic pal, Rep. Gregory Meeks of Queens, called Paterson "my governor, my friend, who has done a relatively good job."

For a sitting governor, that praise is a few shades shy of faint.

All of this comes days after Washington Democrats sent a clear message that Paterson should step aside for the popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. They are concerned that a weak top of the ticket could hurt other Democrats, including Kirsten Gillibrand, whom Paterson appointed to fill Clinton's Senate seat. A Paterson run could even entice Republican savior-in-waiting Rudy Giuliani to run for governor.

"He needs a game-changer," said Lee Miringoff of the Marist College poll, which found Paterson had a 17 percent approval rating.

Many, however, say the game is over.

Last week's criticism and an apparent snub by Obama who gushed over Cuomo during a New York visit was embarrassing publicly for Paterson. Worse, it may be lethal financially, giving Democratic campaign contributors cover to cut checks to Cuomo and, with the apparent blessing of the nation's first black president, not worry about a backlash.

That will make Paterson's decision for him. It was the same force that made Cuomo exit the 2002 race for governor as money and support flowed to then-state Comptroller Carl McCall in his losing campaign to unseat Gov. George Pataki.

Paterson mostly alone
Without friends, a free flow of campaign cash and the contacts made from a previous campaign for governor, Paterson is mostly alone. Inheriting the job 18 months ago when Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution probe and governing through the worst fiscal crisis in state history left him saying "no" to powerful, well-funded special interests, while repeatedly committing his own political missteps, including the ugly process to replace Clinton with Gillibrand.

Paterson angered the Kennedy family when he didn't embrace Caroline Kennedy for the job and a Paterson operative later leaked unsubstantiated rumors about her in an attempt to show she was ill suited.

He is left with a message that is not much more than his character — which polls show New Yorkers like — and how he feels he kept the state from worse fiscal fates faced by other states.

So Paterson says he's "clearly running" even as Democrats urge him to reconsider.

"You don't give up because you have low poll numbers," he told "Meet the Press." "If everybody can tell what the future is, why didn't they tell me I'd be governor? I could have used the heads-up."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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