By David Gordon, Managing Editor
New York Gov. David A. Paterson kicked off his election campaign to a standing room only crowd in the Student Center Multipurpose Room early Saturday.
"After all you have heard there's one rumor I will confirm," Paterson said at the start of an aggressive speech, "I'm running for Governor this year and we will win this year.
"The Governor of the State of New York is putting the people of New York first," Paterson said.
One of the only politicians in the crowd Saturday was Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall, which played into rumors of internal Democratic Party discord. Neither of the New York's U.S. Senators, Charles Schumer nor Kirsten Gillibrand, were in attendance.
Paterson, who became governor after the resignation of Eliot Spitzer amid scandal, railed against recent "innuendo and false rumors," spread by what he referred to as "tabloid" newspapers. "I've had a very difficult last couple weeks," he said. In the past week, The New York Times has published two separate profiles of the governor, one of which called him "increasingly remote." Paterson also has to contend with low poll numbers. In a Marist Poll released Feb. 3, only 26 percent of registered voters think he is doing an excellent or good job in office.
In the nearly two years he's been in office, Paterson has eliminated over $30 billion in deficits and achieved reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which deal with the sale and possession of narcotic drugs. The reforms included removing the original minimum mandatory sentences.
It is rumored that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who currently has a $16 million campaign account, will challenge Paterson (who has about $3 million) in a Democratic primary. The New York Democratic Convention will take place in May. Cuomo has not yet announced his intentions. On the Republican ticket, the only declared candidate is former Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio.
Paterson chose Hofstra University as his first stumping site having graduated from the Hofstra School of Law in 1982. Raised in Hempstead, he attended the Little Red Train School where, he said, he was the most important lesson of his life: finders-keepers. "If you pay attention in Nursery School, you don't have to go to law school," he joked.
Few students were dispersed among the crowd, believed to number between 300 and 400. A small group of protesters gathered outside the University's gates to protest Paterson's proposed closing a number of public parts. Paterson will continue his election kick-off tour in Rochester, Saturday afternoon.