NY governor ignores pressure to end election quest

PatersonGov. David Paterson isn’t scrapping his plans to run for the office he inherited 18 months ago, despite growing pressure from Washington and intervention by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has contacted the governor and the White House over his concern.

“My plans for 2010 are to run for governor of the state of New York,” Paterson said Sunday after serving as grand marshal to the African-American Day Parade in Manhattan. “I am running for office.”

Paterson’s remarks come amid mounting pressure from Washington and within New York to drop out because of his low poll numbers and concerns from other Democrats that he might hurt their chances in 2010.

“I think the White House is very concerned about 2010,” said Lee Miringoff of the Marist College poll, which last week found Paterson mired in some of the lowest approval ratings of any New York governor.

“They are worried that Paterson’s pick for the U.S. Senate, (Kirsten) Gillibrand, might be vulnerable,” Miringoff said. “They are also worried they might lose that seat and they want the head of the ticket to be stronger than Paterson’s numbers are.”

Asked if he was concerned about losing some Democratic support because of his low poll numbers, Paterson said: “No, I feel like in this very difficult economic time, just about all the governors are facing the same types of problems.”

But the signals from Washington Democrats may be what Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, riding high in the polls, needs to increase fundraising for a possible run for governor. Cuomo has refused to challenge Paterson so far and has declined to say if he will seek the job held by New York’s first black and legally blind governor.

“The White House is giving Cuomo all the political cover he needs to get in this,” Miringoff said.

In addition to governor, every statewide office and the majority of state Senate seats will be decided in the 2010 elections.

A Cuomo spokesman wouldn’t respond to requests for comment Sunday.

“Clearly, the governor is not doing well with New York voters right now,” said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll. “But, again, the election is 14 months away. … That’s a lifetime in politics, or multiple lifetimes.”

Sharpton said on his radio show Sunday that he has spoken with the White House and Paterson about his concern that Democrats do what is best for the people of New York. He wouldn’t say whether he was advising Paterson to drop out.

Obama has not spoken with Paterson about the race, said a senior White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive political matter. But it’s no secret that Democrats ? in New York, in Washington and at the White House ? are very concerned about Paterson’s re-election bid.

The White House has not ordered Paterson to leave the race and would not do so, the official continued, saying only that the governor can make the decision about what’s right for him, the party and the state. But Paterson and his advisers have been made aware of Obama’s concern about losing the governor’s office in such a key state, the White Office official said.

Another senior Democratic adviser in New York said those seeking Paterson’s withdrawal are suggesting he could land a Washington job in the Obama administration. The adviser spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak for Paterson or the New York congressional delegation.

Paterson is scheduled to present a plan later this month to the Legislature to deal with a more than $2 billion deficit that likely will require politically unpopular cuts in funding for some of Albany’s most powerful special interests.

Last week, the Marist College poll found 20 percent of New York voters approved of Paterson’s performance as governor, compared with 21 percent in June. Only 24 percent of Democrats felt he was doing well. Seventy percent of voters said Paterson isn’t a viable candidate for 2010, including 65 percent of Democrats.

In comparison, Cuomo’s job approval rating is 69 percent. Sixty-seven percent of New Yorkers felt he should run for governor, including 77 percent of Democrats.

As lieutenant governor, Paterson moved to the governor’s office in March 2008 after Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal. Since then, his popularity has plummeted and the state’s economic situation has deteriorated, with job losses mounting and the unemployment rate rising to its highest level in 26 years.

“I found that to be stunning, that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for re-election,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, reacting to news accounts on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“That will be very interesting to see what the response from black leadership around the country will be about the president calling the governor to step down or not run for election,” said Steele, who is black.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday that he supported Paterson’s bid for re-election, even though the governor recently endorsed Bloomberg’s top Democratic rival in the November mayoral election.

“I’m going to do everything I can to help him,” Bloomberg said. “I don’t know whether he wants to run for re-election, but if he does, I would urge him to go for it.”

Paterson announced on Friday that he is endorsing the city’s comptroller for mayor, saying it’s time for a change at City Hall. Bloomberg is serving his second four-year term.

Though he emphasized that he remains friendly with the billionaire mayor, Paterson criticized Bloomberg for persuading the City Council to change a term-limits law last year allowing him to run for a third term.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.