Paterson must resign

David Paterson’s short time as governor will end this year.

After saying repeatedly he was going to run for governor this year no matter what, he announced last week that he was ending his campaign less than a week after it officially began. There are still more than eight months before the election, but Paterson recognized that the revelations about his intervention in a domestic violence case made it nearly impossible for him to proceed with his plans.

If his intervention is too much of a “distraction” to be overcome in eight months, how will Paterson be able to adequately serve as governor the next four weeks as he and the state Legislature try and figure out how to close a daunting $9 billion deficit before the April 1 deadline?

We don’t think he can — which is why we think he should resign.

Paterson has determined that his actions merit a criminal investigation, which he will defend simultaneously through much of the budget negotiations, if not longer. He and the Legislature also should be grappling with a way to avoid at least some of the severe bus and subway cuts about to take effect. Last year’s state Senate stalemate cost New York City and other localities many millions of dollars as deadlines were ignored. A weakened governor will have little credibility when the budget negotiations inevitably stall and Albany finger-pointing resumes.  

If Paterson “only” had to deal with budget and transit problems the next few weeks, that would be hard enough. There are also large, pressing issues Downtown that will not get enough attention with the governor busy offering evidence that he did not commit crimes or other offenses.

St. Vincent’s Hospital, which serves the broad Downtown area, is on the brink of closing. Paterson has provided temporary financial relief, but will he be as engaged as he needs to be to save the hospital? The World Trade Center’s arbitration deadline is coming up now, and Paterson has done little to get the Port Authority to end the stalemate with W.T.C. developer Larry Silverstein.

It is not in dispute that Paterson arranged to speak to a woman who was trying to get an order of protection against one of the governor’s closest aides, David Johnson. The woman said under oath that she was choked and that Johnson tried to rip her clothes off. Paterson spoke to her and she did not show up for court the next day. The day after that, Paterson felt emboldened enough to say there were only two kinds of boxes that could make him give up the governor’s seat — a coffin or a ballot box.

It is possible the phone call, the court no-show and the “box” bravado were not connected, but regardless, Paterson never should have contacted the accuser. Denise O’Donnell, the woman whom Paterson entrusted to head the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, said as much when she resigned in protest.

The governor has things in his record to be proud of. One is pushing for the up-or-down vote on same-sex marriage, which will ultimately advance the civil rights cause by putting everyone on record. Another is appointing a lieutenant governor with an accomplished record of public service and without further political aspirations. Richard Ravitch may know more about the state’s two most pressing problems — the budget and the transit system — than anyone else. He’s the best person to lead the state for the next 10 months, if not longer, and Paterson should step aside for the good of the state.