ALBANY, N.Y. – As he is sworn in as the state's 55th governor, Lt. Gov. David Paterson plans to use his inaugural speech to project confidence and optimism, while relating his own personal struggles to the ability of New York to overcome challenges, an aide said.
Paterson, who is legally blind, is scheduled to be sworn in Monday, just a week after the world learned of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's involvement in a prostitution ring. Paterson will become the state's first black governor and the nation's first legally blind chief executive to serve more than a few days.
It's not exactly take two of Spitzer's promised "Day One," but for many New Yorkers it will be a welcome fresh start after a week of having details of Spitzer's sordid activities seep gradually into the open.
After acknowledging what a difficult week it has been for the state, Paterson plans to talk about the need for both parties to work together to address pressing issues, including the state budget. The tone of healing and unity could be just what New York needs after a week of scandal-ridden headlines.
Spitzer in his 2006 campaign had promised New York that everything would change from his first day in office. That ended last week when the married father of three announced he would resign after he was accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars on prostitutes — including a tryst with a 22-year-old call girl in Washington the night before Valentine's Day.
On Sunday, Paterson was catching up on budget details and preparing — and memorizing — his inauguration speech.
Spitzer is scheduled to officially resign at noon Monday, and Paterson will officially take over an hour later before a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chamber. He spent much of last week meeting with Democrat and Republican leaders in preparation for his unexpected transition.
The new governor was Spitzer's lieutenant for just 14 months. Paterson has been a Democratic state senator since 1985, representing parts of Harlem and Manhattan's Upper West Side.
He graduated from Columbia University and Hofstra School of Law.
His father, Basil, a former state senator representing Harlem and later New York's first black secretary of state, was part of a political fraternity that included fellow Democrats U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins — the city's first black mayor — and former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton.
"It's very daunting" Paterson said Friday. "I definitely feel anxiety ... but in the end, we have a job to do. And we're here to do that job."
Federal prosecutors must still decide whether to pursue charges against Spitzer.