Spitzer’s Mate David Paterson Is Mystery Man

A Big Risk?

To some in Albany, it was an astonishing risk. “Eliot sees the public David, the press-spin David,” said one Democrat. “He doesn’t know him like we do.”

But Mr. Paterson said yes, and the deal was done. There was none of the formal process that accompanies a Vice Presidential nomination or even a staff hire—no vetting, Mr. Paterson said.

“When he asked me, on my own I did opposition research on myself and sent it to him,” the Senator said and proceeded to give a nine-minute summary of two lawsuits by former employees against the Senate in his tenure. Both cases are pending, and Mr. Paterson offered them unprompted. It’s a tendency that has astonished reporters. Not long ago, he volunteered to a reporter that he had underpaid his income taxes. “Give him points for honesty,” Daily News columnist Bill Hammond remarked.

Mr. Paterson also has a reputation for not keeping a tight rein on his small district-office staff or on the 104 staffers he directly oversees in the Senate minority. When one $31,500 part-time receptionist turned up in the Charlotte Observer answering questions about skin-care products, Mr. Paterson said that the man was no longer on staff. In fact, the employee isn’t set to depart until the end of this month.

But by most accounts, he has made progress toward instilling some order in the last year, since a staff shake-up that included the elevation of Charles O’Byrne, a former Jesuit priest who is close to the Kennedy family.

“I think sometimes I would disperse and dole out responsibility so much that you didn’t know who was the leader around here,” Mr. Paterson said. “I think in the last year and a half that I have changed.”

The techniques of administration aside, Mr. Paterson’s new status as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor has added no calculation to his approach to public life. Mr. Spitzer faces a likely primary challenge from the Nassau County Executive, Tom Suozzi, but Mr. Paterson couldn’t find a bad word to say about his running mate’s rival. His only worry, he said, was that a primary would force the Democrats to spend too much money.

“I don’t see any reason to beat up on Tom Suozzi when I think he did a great job,” he said. “I had suggested Suozzi for Lieutenant Governor. I think he’d be great.”