N.Y. Gov. David Paterson Ends Election Campaign

The embattled Paterson bows to pressure amid scandal, clearing way for Cuomo.

February 11, 2010, 5:45 PM

Feb. 26, 2010— -- New York Gov. David Paterson said today he will end his election campaign -- just weeks after saying that he would only leave office if voters threw him out at the polls or he's carried out "in a box."

"There are times in politics when you have to know not to strive for service but to step back. And that moment has come for me," Paterson said at a press conference in Albany, N.Y.

But the governor defiantly denied charges of impropriety during his tenure and said he welcomed a full investigation.

"I have never abused my office not now, not ever," he said.

The White House today welcomed the news that Paterson won't be running.

"The reports we all read about over the past many hours and past couple of days were disturbing," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today. "Anybody that read these articles believes, at a minimum, he made the right decision."

New York State Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs also praised Paterson's move saying "his personal sacrifice underscores his character and courage in a most difficult time for him personally."

"The Governor's action today reminds us of what it means to be a true public servant by putting The People First," Jacobs said.

Paterson's announcement is a dramatic about face for a man who pledged to defy sliding poll numbers, a series of damaging revelations about him and his staff, and pressure from the White House that he quit the race.

Paterson the former lieutenant governor, became governor in 2008 after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal. Paterson only launched his election campaign officially last week, telling a crowd of 400 supporters, "They haven't knocked us down yet, and they never will."

Paterson acknowledged that things have changed in the short time since that day.

"I am being realistic about politics. It hasn't been the latest distraction, it's been an accumulation of obstacles that have obfuscated me from bringing my message to the public," Paterson said. "It is become increasingly clear to me that I cannot run for office and try to manage the state's business at the same time."

He said he still intends to serve the remainder of his term, however.

"There are 308 days left in my term and I will serve every one of them fighting for the people of New York," he said.

Paterson Faced Mounting Pressure to Bow Out of Race

A recent Marist College poll found only 26 percent of registered voters rate the governor's performance as "excellent" or "good," down 5 percent since mid-January.

The same poll showed just 23 percent of Democrats would support Paterson in a primary match-up with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who was the preferred choice of 70 percent of those polled.

Paterson's decision now clears the way for Cuomo who is widely expected to seek Paterson's seat.

Cuomo is now investigating a New York Times report, at the governor's request, that Paterson improperly injected himself into the legal process surrounding a domestic violence episode involving a top aide.

The Times also reported that the governor's State Police security detail visited with the alleged victim despite not having jurisdiction.

In what may have been the final straw, Paterson's Public Safety Deputy Secretary, Denise O'Donnel, resigned this week in protest after concluding that the governor's office and the state police did improperly contact the women who had filed a domestic abuse report against Paterson aide David W. Johnson.

On Monday, as rumors of a bombshell report swirled, Paterson told MSNBC the Times' allegations "haven't been substantiated by a fact or a source. I would answer them if they have, but they're not."

Today he reiterated his innocence.

"I'm looking forward to a full investigation of actions taken by myself and my administration," he said, "And I believe that when the facts are reviewed the truth will prevail."

ABC News' David Chalian and Huma Khan contributed to this report.

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