Largely Unknown David Paterson Will Take Office Monday

This story was written by Kate Thuma, Washington Square News
Just last week, it looked like New York Lt. Gov. David Paterson had made the wrong decision.

The Democrats are currently on the brink of becoming the Senate majority in Albany, which means if he had kept his job as the Senate minority leader in 2006 instead of becoming Eliot Spitzer's running mate, he would likely have been the Senate majority leader - a position with far more power than lieutenant governor.

But how things have changed.

In a matter of days, he will have gone from an unknown politician to New York's first black governor.

On Monday, Spitzer will resign as governor after being caught participating in a prostitution ring. Paterson will serve the remainder of Spitzer's term, which ends in 2010.

Paterson was born with no sight in his left eye and severely limited vision in his right, a condition called optic atrophy. He will be the first blind governor in United States history.

He received a bachelor's degree from Columbia in 1977 and a law degree from Hofstra in 1983. After failing the New York Bar Exam, Paterson became an advocate for the visually impaired. He said, during the exam, he wasn't given proper accommodations for his disability.

He has also worked on multiple political campaigns and was elected to the New York state senate in 1986.

Despite being second in line to Spitzer, Paterson has remained in the background throughout his term as lieutenant.

NYU politics professor Anna Harvey thinks that this lack of public knowledge is due to the nature of his job.

"I think there are very few people who know what his agenda is because the role of lieutenant governor is largely a ceremonial position," she said.

Most students WSN interviewed did not know who Paterson was before this week - or now, for that matter.

However, those who are familiar with Paterson think he will have more success than Spitzer.

College Democrats president Chris Cruzcosa doesn't know much about Paterson but thinks that he has the potential to be successful.

"I understand that he is a long-term politician and very well-experienced," he said. "That's all I can ask for."

CAS freshman Ned Resnikoff said it's not surprising that people don't know about Paterson because Spitzer overshadowed him with his celebrity status. And, he added, "I'm pretty sure he [Paterson] doesn't spend as much time with prostitutes, which is certainly a plus."

In addition, CAS freshman Nick Jensen said being the first black governor, while also being blind, is a "significant achievement and a positive step."

Close friends of Paterson speak highly of his character. Taury Di Cioccio, 19, a family friend who also worked with Paterson, praises his dedication to the community.

"I know that David put aside his own personal career ambitions to take care of his Harlem community," he said. "Even when he had pressure in Albany, he always made time to come to his city office to meet with people in the community."
© 2008 Washington Square News via U-WIRE