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The rapid developments were a stunning end to a political career that looked to have no limit.

At 48, Mr. Spitzer had vaulted to the upper echelon of politics, and his name had been floated as a possible U.S. attorney in the event of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clintons election to president. As a superdelegate, he already had endorsed the New York senator and was expected to play a prominent role campaigning for her in the state.

The sex scandal erupted Monday when accusations surfaced that the married father of three teenage daughters spent thousands of dollars on a call girl at the posh Mayflower Hotel in Washington the night before Valentines Day. As the governor canceled all public events that day, rumors swirled that he would resign immediately. He did not but instead holed up yesterday in his Manhattan apartment with his family and lawyers.

Also yesterday, Republicans began threatening impeachment if he didnt step aside, and some Democrats began quietly to urge the governor to resign.

Mr. Spitzer was the target of federal investigators when they opened a probe after banks notified the Internal Revenue Service that Mr. Spitzer was making frequent cash transfers from several accounts.

Law enforcement officials said he was the person identified as “Client 9” in court papers who paid thousands for a night in a Washington hotel with a prostitute named Kristen. According to an affidavit, a federal judge approved wiretaps on the phones of the escort service in January and February.

FBI agents in Washington put Mr. Spitzer under surveillance at least twice on Jan. 26 and Feb. 13 to confirm that a prostitute joined him at the Mayflower Hotel, according to a senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the case. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

The stakeouts came after the FBI recorded phone calls by Mr. Spitzer arranging the tryst, the official said.

Whether U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor, who prosecutes federal and local laws in the District, will bring charges against Mr. Spitzer likely depends on the plea deal the governor is negotiating with the government in New York, two senior law enforcement officials said.

Mr. Spitzer built his political reputation on rooting out government corruption and made a name for himself as attorney general as crusader against shady practices and overly generous compensation. He also cracked down on prostitution.

He was known as the “Sheriff of Wall Street.” Time magazine named him “Crusader of the Year,” and the tabloids proclaimed him “Eliot Ness.”

He rode into the governors office with a historic margin of victory on Jan. 1, 2007, vowing to stamp out corruption in New York government in the same way that he had taken on Wall Street executives with a vengeance as the state’s attorney general.

His term as governor has been fraught with problems, including an unpopular plan to grant drivers licenses to illegal immigrants and a plot by his aides to smear his main Republican nemesis. The prostitution scandal, some said, was too much to overcome.

Mr. 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 lieutenant governor.

Though legally blind, Mr. Paterson has enough sight in his right eye to walk unaided, recognize people at conversational distance and even read if text is placed close to his face.

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