New York’s First Black Governor Takes The Reins

Paterson's ability to play nice with Republicans may help him meet challenges head-on

New York Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson became the state’s first African American governor in March after Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s resignation. This makes Paterson the state’s first legally blind governor and the third African American to govern a U.S. state in modern history.

Spitzer, a married father of three who built his career on being an ethical leader, was linked to a high-end prostitution ring and resigned amidst further investigation into his involvement and possible use of government funds.

Paterson, 53, was elected lieutenant governor in November 2006 on a ticket headed by Spitzer and will fulfill the remaining three years of the former governor’s term. Calling Paterson “a very experienced and respected political figure,” Marty Linsky, a faculty member at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, says Paterson “should be fine if he gets some things done and creates a less hostile atmosphere in Albany.”

Paterson has a long association with public service. Born in Brooklyn, Paterson is part of New York’s African American political elite. His father, Basil, is a legendary politician who was the first African American secretary of state of New York and the first African American vice-chair of the national Democratic Party. The elder Paterson also ran for New York’s lieutenant governor in the 1970s-albeit unsuccessfully.

As lieutenant governor, the Harlem resident’s attention centered on stem-cell research, alternative energy, reducing domestic violence, and increasing the role minority- and women-owned businesses play in New York State.

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