New York has most of a budget now, and Gov. David Paterson is more responsible for that than anyone else.
We can't think of another major politician who has used his lame-duck status so effectively. Others have padded their futures by doing things that win allies, even if they turn off voters. They don't need voters anymore, but friends in high places will help their future fortunes.
Not David Paterson. He's made tough choices that lose allies in Albany and Washington - including President Obama - but do what's needed and wanted by the people - at least those with a healthy fear of bankruptcy. The way he used the weekly budget extenders to force the legislators to deal with the budget was excellent. It didn't look like they were doing much of anything about it; it should have been job number one.
Gov. David Paterson speaks last September at an Associated Press conference in Syracuse.
(Enterprise file photo)
He has taken on the powerful public-employee unions with common sense on his side, and while he hasn't completely won that fight with the Legislature, he has largely won it in the public eye. State union leaders and his fellow Democrats in Albany have vilified him horribly, but on the ground, many local teachers unions agreed to concessions this year.
The tide is turning his way as more New Yorkers shed their denial of the fiscal crisis we're in, and that the only way out is to let the state take away much of what it has given people.
So why, again, is he not running to continue his job?
It was that situation in which one of his top aides, David Johnson, was accused of assaulting his girlfriend last Halloween. The governor reportedly wrote a statement he hoped the woman would sign, saying there had been no violence. She didn't. The New York Times broke the story in February. In the firestorm that followed, Paterson dropped his election bid. The case is still under investigation.
Around the same time, it came out that Gov. Paterson had gotten five Yankees World Series tickets in October. He said he always intended to pay for them.
That stuff isn't great, but it's off the field, so to speak. In his job, he has done much more good than ill. Saving the state from California-style fiscal ruin is a dirty job, but Gov. Paterson is doing it.
Maybe that's really why he's not running. He would have survived the David Johnson and Yankees tickets scandals with a little help from his party, but they abandoned him with his hard line on the budget.
These days, the Republicans praise the governor more than the Democrats do. When we interviewed state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox in October, he praised the governor so much that we asked him if the GOP would endorse him. We had to ask the question several times until Mr. Cox finally said no.
And so we come to our point: If he survives this David Johnson investigation, Mr. Paterson should step back in the ring to do his job for another four years.
We're not endorsing him, but we are saying that his candidacy would improve the quality of this year's governor race. The choice between heavy favorite Andrew Cuomo and Republican Rick Lazio - Carl Paladino's unsettling personal antics effectively count him out - is boring. Many New Yorkers might sit this one out.
Paterson would liven things up. He might not have the party backing or the money to mount a robust campaign, but he is a known commodity with the advantage of being an incumbent. People would know what they're getting: He's made his mistakes as well as his courageous stands in public. He would take votes from both parties. The debates would be fabulous.
And on that note, Gov. Paterson, we will welcome you to Lake Placid today. You haven't been up here yet and definitely haven't shown the North Country the kind of love Gov. Pataki did, but we respect that you haven't shown partiality to any particular area of the state. Even so, we hope you come back soon.