Paterson, Ravitch Explain Themselves

ALBANY—Speaking in the ornate Red Room, which was stocked half-full of administration officials, including the commissioners of several state agencies, David Paterson appeared publicly for the first time with newly named Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch.

Paterson said Ravitch was sworn in around 8:40 p.m. last night, and his oath was filed and accepted by the Secretary of State by 11 p.m., over 90 minutes before a restraining order was issued by a Nassau County judge. Paterson said “that issue is moot.” He defended the late-night action as “traditional after an appointment.”

Still, he walked back a promise to have Ravitch preside over the still-hobbled State Senate chamber this afternoon, saying, “We’re not going to engage in flaunting an appointment if there’s any concern.” He said his lawyers were currently working on an appeal.

Paterson stressed his decision to make this appointment was made primarily on issues of succession.

“I wouldn’t have done it several months ago, because despite of the fact that we think it’s legal, I thought that it would be fine if the president pro tem would serve as acting lieutenant governor,” Paterson said. But as the “debacle” went on, “it’s not clear who would be the next acting governor. There are two, if not three, senators that lay claim to that post.”

He responded to the assertion that his appointment has stalled negotiations with some vigor.

“Very close to a deal, I interpret as, they want to go home,” he said of senators, noting the problem with succession issues starting to bother him: “I know, as I was taking my last breath, you would be at the bed saying, ‘Governor, why didn’t you do something before?'”

“This is childish. The issue of how this exacerbates their problem, it doesn’t at all,” he said, with two senators seated in the audience. “Now they’d like some new excuses: Ravitch, David Paterson? From one day to the next, the Senate has befuddled us and confused us with, I think, the politics of deception.”

The commissioners applauded.

Ravitch spoke briefly and let the governor field most questions. He insisted he would not work toward any political end, and would never be a candidate for anything. He was asked why he agreed, given the legally dubious nature of his appointment, to being a political football. His answer was long.

“I’ve come to have a lot of respect and affection for the governor. He asked me to help. I’ve responded to similar requests in the past, and I had absolutely no reasons. I had no conflicts, other than to spend time with my wonderful grandchildren and my lovely wife, I had no excuse,” he said. He then recounted standing in the Assembly chamber as bonds went into default, and standing next to Governor Hugh Carey as bankers said they would stop lending money to New York City.

“I have spent many, many days and nights worrying about how does government meet its fundamental obligation: to serve the needs of people, particularly poor people, in every corner of this state if it doesn’t have the resources to have a fiscally sound governmental system,” he said. “It is my awareness of how severely that affects people in a state like this that I could not say no.”

Paterson, Ravitch Explain Themselves