March 5, 2010— -- New York's embattled Gov. David Paterson declared today that he had no plans to resign and intends to finish out his term of office.
The governor's defiant statement came on the same day that a new poll found that less than half of New Yorkers believe he should remain in office.
In a show of toughing it out, Paterson also announced that he will hold a budget town hall meeting on Monday, a signal that he will not be quitting.
Nevertheless, his statement of determination to stay in office in the face of twin scandals left room for changes.
"Nobody knows what the future holds, but I have no plans other than to finish out my term," the governor said after taking part in the grand opening of a restaurant at John F. Kennedy Airport.
"To step down ... over untrue allegations would create new levels of vulnerability for government officials," he said. "That would be chaotic."
The fact that Paterson felt compelled to declare he's not resigning is an indication of how much pressure he is under to step down. It is also an indication of how quickly public support for him has crumbled.
A Quinnipiac University poll released today shows a dramatic drop in public support for Paterson. Fewer than half of New Yorkers, 46 percent, now say he should finish his term rather than resign, down from 61 percent earlier in the week.
"Support for Gov. David Paterson erodes with every new headline," Maurice Carrol, director of the Quinnipiac poll, told the Associated Press. "New York State voters started the week giving the governor the benefit of the doubt 2-1. Now, there is more doubt and less benefit."
Earlier in the day, the governor held an impromptu news conference as he left his Manhattan office and told reporters he intends to clear his name.
"At a certain point I will cooperate with the investigation and will be clearing my name," he said.
Paterson repeated that intent at the airport restaurant, saying, "I have every intention of answering all of these questions."
He blamed news stories for his falling poll numbers.
"I think people originally hearing about this thought the governor should be allowed to clear his name," he said. "But then there have been a number of more articles with unsourced information and innuendo, inaccurate information that when cobbled together over and over again certainly has an effect."
Paterson's staff plans got a what one aide described as a "pep talk" to regroup and focus on the state's budget crisis.
Gov. Paterson Buoyed By Black Leaders
Paterson did receive some key support Thursday night when the Rev. Al Sharpton emerged from a meeting of black New York City leaders saying that "the overwhelming majority" backed Paterson.
"We all believe that Gov. Paterson at this moment can continue to move forward and do the peoples' business as the legal proceedings play themselves out," said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, who was at the meeting.
Earlier Thursday Paterson communications director Peter Kauffman abruptly quit his post after weeks of defending the governor amid allegations he abused his office by intervening in a domestic violence case involving one of his closest aides.
"Unfortunately, as recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue in my current position," Kauffman said in a statement.
Kauffman follows New York State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt, who quit Wednesday, and deputy public safety secretary Denise O'Donnell, who resigned late last month.
The resignations were at least partly triggered a New York Times report that Paterson or members of his state police security detail intervened in domestic violence complaint against close aide David Johnson to try to get it to "go away."
Last Halloween, Johnson's girlfriend, Sherr-una Booker, told police she was beaten and choked by Johnson and later obtained a temporary protection order against him. But Booker chose not to press charges, stirring speculation that she may have been pressured into her decision.
The New York Times and Associated Press have reported that Paterson personally spoke with Booker after the incident, but that the governor maintains she called him.
Paterson also faces possible charges that he lied under oath about soliciting free tickets to a Yankees World Series game for his son and a friend. State law bans soliciting gifts and the state attorney general has been asked to determine whether Paterson should be charged with a crime.
If Paterson is charged over the Yankee tickets, it could cost him up to $90,000 in fines and possibly his job.
Gov. Paterson Investigated by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo
"I would really like to tell my story," Paterson recently told WABC's Dave Evans. "But when I read these accounts that are unsourced and inaccurate, it's obviously frustrating. But... when the truth comes out, I'm confident I'll be vindicated."
Paterson, who said last week he would not run for election in November, assumed office in March 2008 after his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, revealed he had patronized a high-priced prostitution ring and resigned from office.