- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who will take over as New York”s governor after Gov. Eliot Spitzer”s dramatic fall from power in a prostitution scandal, said yesterday that he is ready to lead and “get New York back on track.”

At a press conference at the state Capitol, Mr. Paterson said he promised Mr. Spitzer when he accepted the job as lieutenant governor that he would be prepared to take command of the state if necessary.

“I am prepared,” Mr. Paterson said. “I promised the governor yesterday that I would commit myself to the people of this great state, that we would have stability and continue in these challenges that lie ahead. Now we have to get New York back on track.”

Mr. Paterson takes over Monday and will become New York”s first black governor and the nation”s first legally blind chief executive.

One of his first tasks will be working with lawmakers to close a $4.7 billion deficit and broker a deal by April 1 on a $124 billion budget proposed by Mr. Spitzer.

“We cannot afford to waste another second. We have a budget that”s due and a deadline to meet,” the incoming governor said.

Mr. Spitzer announced Wednesday that he would step down effective Monday amid a call-girl scandal that made a mockery of his straight-arrow image and left him facing the prospect of criminal charges and perhaps disbarment.

Mr. Spitzer and his successor have starkly different leadership styles. While Mr. Spitzer was famously abrasive, uncompromising and even insulting, Mr. Paterson has built a reputation as a conciliator, and lawmakers quickly embraced the new order.

Barely known outside his Harlem political base, Mr. Paterson, 53, has been in New York government since his election to the state Senate in 1985. Though legally blind, he has enough sight in his right eye to walk unaided, recognize people at conversational distance and even read if the text is placed close to his face.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Paterson said he had spoken to Mr. Spitzer.

“I just told him how sorry I was this happened and how much he still inspires me,” Mr. Paterson said.

Of Mr. Spitzer”s disclosures and resignation, Mr. Paterson said, “I”m getting over it.”

Mr. Spitzer, who built his political reputation on rooting out corruption, resigned without securing a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, although a law-enforcement official said the former governor was still thought to be negotiating one. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Among the possible charges that law-enforcement officials said could be brought against Mr. Spitzer are soliciting and paying for sex; violating the Mann Act, the 1910 federal law that makes it a crime to take someone across state lines for immoral purposes; and illegally arranging cash transactions to conceal their purpose.

Mr. Spitzer could also be disbarred. In New York, a lawyer can lose his license for failing to “conduct himself both professionally and personally, in conformity with the standards of conduct imposed upon members of the bar.”

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