Governor David Paterson announced Friday that he will abandon his bid for a full term, but has no plan to resign from office, amid a growing scandal revolving around domestic violence allegations against a top aide.
At a 3 p.m. news conference from his Midtown office, the governor said, "Today I am announcing that I am ending my campaign for governor for the state of New York."
Paterson said he made the decision as a result of the recent distractions, and vowed, "I have never abused my office, not now, not ever."
The state's 55th governor said he is just "being realistic about politics," and that he will dedicate his remaining 308 days left in office to work on the state budget, as New York's deficit rises to more than $8 billion.
"There are times in politics when you have to know not to strive for service, but to step back, and that moment has come for me," said the governor.
During the announcement, which came just one day after he said he would not end his gubernatorial campaign, he highlighted his achievements, including reforming the Rockefeller drug laws, reducing $33 billion in the state's deficit and passing campaign finance reforms.
Paterson formally announced his campaign just last Saturday, but was under fire for having contact with a woman seeking an order of protection against the former aide, David Johnson.
The governor's office acknowledged that the governor spoke to Johnson's accuser, but said that she placed the call and a spokesman denied anyone tried to keep her from pursuing a domestic violence case.
No criminal charges were brought following the alleged confrontation with Johnson on Halloween last year.
Paterson said on Friday he will cooperate fully with the attorney general's investigation.
"I believe that when the facts are reviewed, the truth will prevail," said the governor.
Paterson's decision to end his campaign paves the way for State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to seek the Democratic nomination.
Cuomo is the favored gubernatorial candidate of many Democratic Party members, including State Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs. Paterson also offered his assistance to the attorney general if he decides to become a candidate.
The attorney general said in a statement Friday, "I am sure this is a difficult choice and a sad day for the Governor and his family. It is in the best interests of all New Yorkers that the state government function through this difficult time and address the pressing budgetary problems we face. This is an election year and I will announce my plans at the appropriate time. In the meantime, I will continue to focus on my job as Attorney General and the many important issues we are pursuing."
Earlier Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg also said that the state does not need distractions during this difficult financial time.
"It's not good for the state to not have a state government functioning as well as it needs to during tough economic times," said Bloomberg. "I think he was right to have the attorney general look into this. The governor has to make his own plans, but I will say it's a very challenging situation our state government has to face."
The governor's top criminal justice official, Denise O'Donnell resigned Thursday, saying it was unacceptable that Paterson and the State Police made contact with the woman seeking an order of protection against David Johnson.
O'Donnell called the behavior particularly distressing for an administration that prides itself in combating domestic violence.
Some prominent Democrats including Bill de Blasio, Bill Perkins and Congressman Tim Bishop had called for the governor to end his bid for a full term, and City Comptroller John Liu even said on Friday that the governor needs to step down.
Residents in Harlem who spoke with NY1 had mostly good opinions of Paterson, but said it was wise for him to drop his election bid.
"That's it there. I don't really think he can come back from that," said a local. "You know, he'd be better to, while he still can do it in dignity, just resign and just move on."
"I still think he's a good governor, I still think he'll do an amazing job until the end of his term," said another. "I just don't believe that the decision that he made was very smart when it comes to contacting [Johnson's ex-girlfriend]."
On Friday morning, the New York Daily News and the New York Post delivered simple messages for the governor in front-page editorials.
The Daily News said it was “Time To Go” and called his government an "administration in shambles," at a time when New York needs strong, credible leadership.
The New York Post echoed the News, saying “Time To Go, Dave,” and said Paterson should turn his duties over to appointed Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch.