NY governor's support thin amid pressure to resign

 @ibtimes
on March 05 2010 7:30 AM

Pressure mounted on Thursday on New York state Governor David Paterson to quit after another aide resigned in an expanding political scandal -- and even his most ardent backers offered only tepid support.

Paterson's director of communications quit -- the second high-level aide to step down in a week. Black leaders in Paterson's power base of Harlem held an emergency meeting but stopped short of endorsing that Paterson remain in office.

Paterson, a Democrat, already has abandoned his bid to seek a new term as governor amid questions that he may have improperly intervened to protect an aide from a domestic-violence allegation.

Then Paterson was charged on Wednesday by the state's ethics watchdog for unlawfully taking free tickets to the 2009 baseball World Series.

Paterson has denied any wrongdoing and pledged to cooperate with investigators.

All of us have agreed that due process must be respected and regarded, and the continuing of governing and providing services is what we want, civil rights leader Al Sharpton said late on Thursday.

Sharpton declined to offer an endorsement of the governor after conducting the emergency meeting to discuss Paterson and U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel, who temporarily stepped down as chairman of the powerful U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday while he faces an ethics investigation.

Paterson and Rangel are black politicians from Harlem, the historic center of black culture and politics in New York.

I don't see how Paterson can keep his job, said one invited guest, who spoke on condition of anonymity before the meeting and said some of the discussion might focus on finding a graceful way to ease Paterson out.

Denise O'Donnell, Paterson's deputy secretary for public safety, resigned last week in protest over contacts Paterson and the state police had with a woman who had sought a protective order against Paterson aide David Johnson.

The woman at the center of the case failed to show up for a court appearance one day after speaking with the governor, resulting in the case being dismissed.

Then on Thursday Paterson's director of communications resigned, citing matters of integrity and commitment to public service.

Unfortunately, as recent developments have come to light, I cannot in good conscience continue in my current position. I have notified the governor that I am resigning as director of communications, Peter Kauffmann said in a statement.

If Paterson were to step down, it would elevate an unelected appointee -- Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch -- to the post of governor until a new governor can be elected in November and sworn in next January.

Ravitch, a lawyer and longtime public official, was appointed by Paterson last July, four months after Paterson assumed the governorship when Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal.

Paterson, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2006, assumed the top job two years ago when Spitzer resigned. Since then his public opinion poll numbers have declined in tandem with a number of political missteps.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Will Dunham)

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