After kicking off his campaign last Saturday morning at Hofstra University, Governor David Paterson came to Rochester Laborers Local 435 on Fourth St. where Rochester’s youth drum line, the Mighty Liberators, marched him into a room of over 200 supporters.
Junior Anna Dumont, a former intern for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Congressman Eric Massa, worked with the Paterson campaign team to arrange for transportation for students from the UR’s Information Technology Service Center to Laborers Local. Eight students took advantage of the opportunity to attend the event.
Paterson was first welcomed by Business Manager for Laborers Local 435 Bob Brown and New York Assemblymembers Susan John D-Rochester and David Gantt D-Rochester.
‘We are at the most challenging time of New York State history that I can remember,” John said. ‘You all know how hard it is just to manage your own household and your own household budget. Gov. Patterson has to manage $130 billion budget, and not all the pennies are there.”
With a state budget deficit that is projected to reach $3 billion this year, John acknowledged the difficult task that Paterson must face as governor.
All three officials recognized Paterson as being most qualified for the position, while commending him for his ability to overcome obstacles such as being the State’s first African-American and legally blind governor.
‘He understands the pain we feel here in our community,” John said. ‘[He] came from a community in New York City, a community known as Harlem in NYC, so I know he knows what it’s like to be a part of a place that has so much wealth, but not everyone shares. And growing up as a young man living with a disability, and as a young black man, I know that he knows what it’s like to fight and overcome obstacles. And that’s who I think we need to run our state right now: someone who’s going to fight to overcome obstacles.”
Paterson is familiar with Rochester since visiting the city during his third day in office, March 19, 2008, to work on a budget for the Midtown Project a project launched to revitalize Rochester’s once booming economy. Just last year, Gov. Paterson budgeted $3.3 million from the $253 million federal Tax Credit Assistance Program.
‘I have always loved Rochester because Rochester has to endure that every time it looks like [it] is going to get something, some other cities or places seem to get it, and I’m an underdog too, so that’s why I adopted Rochester,” Patterson said.
While some of his supporters, including Assemblymembers John and Gantt, try to place Paterson’s governorship in the context of the recession, Paterson argued that he’s done a fine job in spite of the adverse economic conditions he inherited.
Among the several accomplishments that Paterson listed, he drew the largest applause when he noted that he was the first governor to raise welfare grants in the last 20 years and expanded food stamp distributions by 30 percent. He also sparked positive responses when he noted that he made it a felony to drive under the influence with a minor in a vehicle.
‘I have accomplished more in two years than what most governors accomplished in two terms,” he said. ‘And yes, I want you to judge me by what I’m fighting, but you can also judge me by what I’ve done.”
Early in his speech, Paterson referred to the rumors circulating about him in New York media outlets.
‘After all of what you may have heard in the last few weeks about me, there is one rumor I would like to confirm: I am running for Governor and we will win,” Paterson said.
Later Paterson went on to indirectly address rumors about his personal life. Three weeks ago, it was leaked that the New York Times was working on a controversial story about Paterson. However, the story released by the Times on Feb. 17, ‘Paterson Aide’s Quick Rise Draws Scrutiny,” was scrutinized for lacking both relevance and factual grounds.
The Times and New York Daily News has also published stories that alleged that Paterson has an extravagant night life.
‘I’m not going to quit because tabloid newspapers engage in rumors, innuendos and lies against me, all the while the one newspaper that was writing the story knew it wasn’t true, and wouldn’t say it,” Paterson said.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is expected to challenge Paterson in the primaries.
Although Cuomo has yet to make any announcements, he currently stands at 55 percent to Paterson’s 23 percent in last month’s Quinnipiac University projected election poll results. However, the results project Paterson at a dead heat with Republican opponent Rick Lazio at 29 to 30 percent.
In September, the Times reported that President Obama made a request for Paterson not to run in the election so that Democrats wouldn’t risk losing governing power in New York State.
While Paterson acknowledged the mixed opinions about his campaign, he assured his supporters that he was up for the challenge.
‘Some of those people are telling me, you can’t run for governor,” he said. ‘Well I want you know there’s a person that’s running for governor that doesn’t quit.”
November will mark Paterson’s first actual election. The former Lt. Governor came into office after Gov. Eliot Spitzer stepped down.
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.