Thursday, December 28, 2006

An uptown bash for Paterson

Basil and David Paterson. The father ran for lieutenant governor in 1970, the first black nominee of a major party for statewide office in New York.
(photo courtesy Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times)
David Paterson, a son of Harlem who rode to an overwhelming victory as Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer's second in command, plans to hold a special inauguration on his home turf next week.
Although the Jan. 5 event at Riverside Church is largely symbolic - he will be officially sworn-in as lieutenant governor during an Albany ceremony on New Year's Day - Paterson said he wanted the community to share in his celebration.
"This was such a significant accomplishment, just in terms of the 230-year history of New York, that this is the first [black] person to serve in the executive branch, that I would like to have another event like that to sort of preserve it for history," he said.
He also held a special ceremony at the church when he became state Senate minority leader four years ago.
The celebration, open to the public, will include Rep. Charles Rangel and City Councilwoman Inez Dickens, both Harlem Democrats, in addition to Spitzer.
Paterson said he particularly wants to thank the neighborhood where he grew up. "I'm still going to live there, and I'm proud that I live there and I love that neighborhood," he said.
There's more than one personal facet to Paterson's victory: He is the first African-American lieutenant governor in part because the man who will administer the oath - his father, former New York Secretary of State Basil Paterson - did not win the office in 1970.
"He was not featured in the campaign in the general election, almost as if his presence would have hurt the ticket," Paterson said.
"There's a sense that people have sometimes that others aren't ready for a woman, for an African-American, for a gay or lesbian," he added. "But the perception that others aren't ready is actually, in many ways, the confirmation that you aren't ready - because others seem to do fine when left to their own devices."
Paterson said he has been fully included in both the campaign and the transition, and there was no friction with Spitzer over holding a separate event. "Let me tell you - when Eliot Spitzer doesn't want something, he's real clear about it," he said.
Regarding his future after playing deputy to Spitzer's sheriff, Paterson was coy - but not completely.
"In eight years, the people will have a choice," he said. "I think in eight years, a very successful governor decides what he wants to do with his life - and I'll be around."

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