New York Governor David Paterson said he shares a special bond with Dennis Shulman, the blind rabbi and psychologist who’s running in the 5th Congressional District.
“I’m really proud of him. He’s a great person and we’ve got a lot of similar experiences, and it was a lot of fun to have some kinship,” said Paterson, who like Shulman has been legally blind since childhood. “There are a lot of African-American elected officials, but the only blind elected official I ever met was the former Lieutenant Governor from Maryland.”
Shulman was in the audience when Paterson gave the keynote address at the New Jersey delegation’s breakfast this morning. Paterson actually endorsed Shulman before former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned, when he was merely Lieutenant Governor. Since then, he’s held two fundraising events with Shulman in New York City.
Both Shulman and Paterson said a third event is planned, though they haven’t worked out the specifics.
Paterson said that he’s also heard of New Jersey’s other high profile legally blind politician: conservative activist Steve Lonegan. While they share a disability, they don’t share an ideology.
Paterson said that being blind has helped him develop a philosophy on governance, so he finds it interesting that someone with the same condition could develop such radically different ideas.
“What the disability did for me was not only to sensitize me to the problems of others that I might not understand as much as my own, but how much government can make a difference. So it does strike me that someone would have as intensely a different point of view as me,” he said.
Still, Paterson said, when members of minority groups start developing different opinions, it’s a sign that they’re facing fewer obstacles.
“The thing is that you know your group is starting to pass the threshold of opportunity when they themselves become diverse. So in other words, you find different members of minority groups voting for different people for president, and you know the whole group must be doing a little better if they disagree on ideology.”