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Paterson goes on campaign offensive Says he is on a 'mission' to run for second term

ALBANY Gov. David A. Paterson went on the offensive Wednesday, soliciting sympathy and support from the public while lashing out at everyone from President Obama to state Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

By day's end, Paterson was saying he is now on a "mission" to run for office next year, despite efforts by the White House and some New York Democrats to get him off the ticket.

While the governor's wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, called Obama's effort to stop a Paterson campaign "very unfair," Paterson said he believes people close to Cuomo -- who wants to be governor -- were in cahoots with the White House over the weekend to push the governor aside.

"I'm sure it didn't bother [Cuomo]," said Paterson, when asked what role Cuomo had in what Paterson loyalists say is a political hatchet job.

The governor also questioned the party loyalties of some New York Democrats who urged him to step aside, saying some -- without naming names -- helped keep Republicans in control of the State Senate over the years.

Paterson also said he would reconsider running only if he felt his candidacy would hurt the party.

"If real, loyal Democrats, like myself, want to talk to me about this, I am willing to have conversations with them," Paterson said during an Associated Press Association meeting in Syracuse, "but I am running for re-election, and I plan on being governor in 2011."

The governor, who has shaved off his mustache, dismissed speculation by some Democrats that he will use this week's court approval of his pick for lieutenant governor to leave office before his term expires in 15 months.

"I didn't appoint the lieutenant governor so I could resign and then he wouldn't have a lieutenant governor. I mean that makes absolutely no sense," Paterson said.

Some Democrats are already maneuvering for a Cuomo campaign and believe Obama has given Cuomo the cover necessary to mount a primary against Paterson.

Paterson, meanwhile, said he doesn't know "of any tangible role" Cuomo may have played in the White House effort designed to halt his 2010 bid.

"A number of people connected to him certainly did that," he said of the leaks and efforts to shove him aside. "And that, I think, is what confused some of the confidential conversations that were held -- of which I have never been given authorization to discuss the confidential conversations."

A Cuomo official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied any involvement.

"We had not role whatsoever and knew nothing about this matter," the official said.

The governor's comments are sure to further cool his relations with Cuomo, who has been not-so-quietly maneuvering for months to try to make a 2010 run for Paterson's job.

Paterson presided Wednesday over a public meeting at the Capitol with legislative leaders, when he revealed the current budget deficit is likely to swell from $2.1 billion to at least $3 billion.

He warned the red ink, if not erased in two months, could hurt the state's ability to pay its bills and borrow money. Lawmakers vowed to cooperate with him to close the deficit. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, did not rule out raising taxes to erase the gap.

Following the meeting, the Democratic leaders of the Senate and Assembly said they support Paterson's 2010 bid -- but served up plenty of wiggle room.

"I support the governor fully. He'll make his decision at the appropriate time, I am confident. Until then, he is the governor of the State of New York," said Silver, when asked if he hopes Paterson runs for office.

Reminded that Paterson insists he is still going to run, Silver said, "Right now, I support him for governor."

"We support the governor. He's running. We're behind him 150 percent until otherwise known at this point in time," added State Sen. John Sampson, the Senate Democratic conference leader.

Both Silver and Sampson were cozy with Cuomo during Monday's visit by Obama, who went out of his way to gush about the attorney general and didn't invite Paterson to a reception attended by both Sampson and Cuomo.

The Democratic lawmakers brushed aside assertions that Obama's move to undermine Paterson's political standing in New York may have hurt the governor's ability to govern at an important fiscal moment.

"It's not an issue whether he's a lame duck or not. This is reality. He has a job. I have a job. Sen. Sampson has a job," Silver said.

In Manhattan, Michelle Paterson criticized Obama, calling it "very unfair" that the president is trying to push Paterson out of the 2010 race.

"You never heard of that before," the governor's wife said as she emerged from a luncheon, according to the New York Post. "David's the first African-American governor in the State of New York, and he's being asked to get out of the race. It's very unusual, and it seems very unfair."

While her husband has tried to maintain a mostly calm public demeanor, his wife said she thinks he was "stunned" by the White House move.

Paterson said he is not disappointed that Obama, the nation's first black president, is not supporting the state's first black governor in the 2010 elections.

He also sought to soften comments he made about Obama's inability to get key bills passed this year, adding that he understands why the White House is interested in New York State politics, given the administration's problems with Republicans in Congress.

If Paterson appeared as if he had the wind knocked out of him Monday, during the appearance with Obama at the community college in Troy, on Wednesday Paterson seemed to be in full campaign mode.

He talked of taking over the state at a difficult time and having to make tough fiscal choices. Yet New York, he said, is still not nearly as bad off as other states facing recession-fueled deficits.

Paterson said he believes New Yorkers will soon see "what we have avoided" -- that voters will be willing to take "a second glance" at his political future.

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com

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