MICHELE NORRIS, host:
David Paterson will be the first African-American governor in New York state history, and only the third black governor in the U.S. since Reconstruction.
NPR's Margot Adler has a profile.
MARGOT ADLER: Everyone says David Paterson is a man who speaks his mind but gets along well and is well-respected by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Quite a change from a governor who made enemies in both parties. And Paterson is not self-righteous. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch called him humble.
Mr. ED KOCH (Former New York City Mayor): There's a naughty quality, which is very endearing. He's a good listener. And I believe he will be a very competent governor.
ADLER: Paterson has a long political pedigree. He's the son of Basil Paterson who was a former minority leader in the state Senate. David Paterson was a state senator starting in the mid-80s, and became the minority leader of the Senate in 2002. The state Senate has a one-vote Republican majority, and the Democrats could seize control in November. Many observers predicted that Paterson would have become the powerful Senate majority leader, so some were surprised that he took the job of lieutenant governor.
And there were tensions between him and Spitzer, which Paterson handled with humor. In a story by Albany political reporter Karen DeWitt soon after he became lieutenant governor, Paterson joked that he was determined not to be an afterthought.
Lieutenant Governor DAVID PATERSON (Democrat, New York): A previous job of the lieutenant governor is to wake up very early in the morning and call the governor's private line. And if he answers, you can go back to sleep, your work is done for the day.
(Soundbite of laughter)
ADLER: Paterson lives with his family in Harlem. He is completely blind in one eye, seeing only shapes and people up close in the other. He doesn't use a cane or a guide dog. Paterson is someone steeped in literature; he's been known to quote Dostoevsky at press briefings.
Listen to this comment he made about Eliot Spitzer at the beginning of his term. It seems stunning in light of today's events.
Lt. Gov. PATERSON: He is not afraid of risk; it's a part of him. It's a part of this nomenclature, it's a part of his conduct, and that's what I love him for. And I am one who is a little more risk-averse than Eliot, but finds that he touches that part of me that wants to take chances and wants to make things happen, and make them happen quickly.
ADLER: But it is exactly this modesty and ability to listen and carefulness that sets Paterson very much apart from Spitzer, and many in Albany should find it a relief.
Sheldon Silver is the Democratic leader of the New York State Assembly.
Mr. SHELDON SILVER (Democratic Leader, New York State Assembly): David is qualified. I think David is intellectually gifted, and I think his personality reaches out to others in a different way.
ADLER: And, in fact, even Republican foes like Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno, Spitzer's archrival, have had cordial relations with Paterson.
Lt. Gov. PATERSON: We partnered on a great number of things and we have an excellent relationship.
ADLER: So there may be more by partisanship in a Paterson administration. But here's a conundrum. The New York State Constitution says, if the governor is out of the state, the lieutenant governor takes over. And if there is no lieutenant governor, as there won't be when Paterson becomes governor, then whenever the governor leaves the state, power goes to the next in line, and that's State Senator Joseph Bruno.
So when David Paterson becomes governor, he could find Democrats insisting that he never leave New York state. When Bruno was asked about this today, he said, that's what the Constitution says.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.
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