Paterson Comes to Praise Weingarten, Sort Of

On January 23, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten waited by the phone for hours until after 2 a.m. to learn David Paterson's final decision on whether she or Kirsten Gillibrand, the last two candidates standing, would take Hillary Clinton's seat in the senate. 

It wasn't Weingarten. 

Last night, she had to wait for the governor again, this time at the Hilton hotel, for an American Friends of the Yitzhak Rabin Center dinner thrown in her honor.

It didn't have to be awkward. But these days, that's just the way things seem to be going for the governor.

Paterson called Weingarten "one of the great educators of the 20th and 21st century" and joked that she had led the teacher's union for over a thousand months.

The crowd wasn't sure what to make of that and there was some grumbling mixed in with the scattered applause.

"Take it easy everyone, a thousand months is only about ten years. Take it easy," Paterson told the audience. "She's a very good friend of mine. I'm not trying to make fun of her age."

And then, evoking Gillibrand's apparent intention to "evolve" on statewide issues, he referenced what sounded a lot like a joke Weingarten recently made at the new senator's expense.

"We were at a meeting recently, and we were all introducing ourselves, and she said ‘Randi Weingarten. Evolving stateswoman,'" he said.

The crowd laughed nervously. 

"Congratulations Randi," Paterson concluded.

After the event, Paterson responded to a question from the Observer about why he ultimately chose Gillibrand over his apparently serious standby, Weingarten, in those early morning hours last month.

"I'm not going to discuss the relative merits of the candidates," he said. "Just the fact that it took a while meant that they were all highly qualified and Randi Weingarten, who is a very dear friend of mine, was certainly one that we thought of quite extensively."

Then he said, "And by the way, the order in which people were called is not necessarily the order that they were–sometimes it was the order in which we found people."

Paterson Comes to Praise Weingarten, Sort Of