Paterson’s Lament: ‘Contested’ Senate Distracting From Real Issues

ALBANY—David Paterson did not say he will meet with State Senator Malcolm Smith and some of the errant members of his Democratic conference to try and patch together a deal that will cement Smith's position in charge of the group.

"As I said, either to both of you or somebody, I was surprised that the deal came together a month in advance because it gave any – this is a very contested situation," Paterson said yesterday evening in Manhattan. "And so, I was surprised they reached an agreement a month in advance and I'm not particularly surprised that there might be some misunderstandings about the agreement. So, I guess they would have to go back and try to work it out, and of course it will give the other side an opportunity to present their issues. But what I do think is starting to happen is that it's distracting us from the real issue, which is that we've got to close this deficit. And I hope that as they go through whatever it is that's causing the controversy, that people will think about that once in a while, because when we go back in January, that's where I really need all of the players in this process to come together."

Paterson was in the room last week as the so-called Gang of Three agreed to support Smith in exchange for top leadership posts. He has been a ally of Smith, and helped propel him to the minority leader slot in 2006.

Late yesterday, word got out that the three rebels were backing away from their deal with Smith. It comes after something of a rollercoaster week for Smith, who faced pressure on multiple fronts that revealed many cracks in the coalition.

The question for Democratic senators now becomes whether the deal is actually worth trying to save, and if not, who to elect as a majority leader in January. As Rick Karlin writes, there's no one clearly waiting in the wings.

Paterson’s Lament: ‘Contested’ Senate Distracting From Real Issues