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by Jay Gallagher

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Defiant gov rouses crowd

Gov. David Paterson managed to rouse a dinner crowd at the annual dinner of the Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus tonight with a defiant vow to run for full term in November despite dismal poll numbers and a nearly empty campaign war chest.
“I’m black, I’m blind, and I’m still alive,’’ he told more than 2,000 people gathered for the $175-a-plate charity event, who roared their approval.
They also reacted strongly to what has become his favorite line recently: “The only way I’ll give up this office is through the ballot box. The only way I’ll leave before then is in a box.’’
Paterson is the state’s first African-American governor, but polls show a majority of African-American voters don’t support him for a four-year term.
Paterson shared the head table with the three other people who are part of this year’s political melodramas in the state: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is widely expected to challenge Paterson for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who is mulling a run against Gillibrand. (Ford said this morning on Meet the Press on NBC that he’ll probably decide within a couple of weeks whether to run.)
All greeted each other civilly but paid little attention to their potential rivals during the dinner.
Paterson could barely be heard over the drone of conversations when he started his speech and rattled off numbers about the state’s fiscal woes.
“I will not let the state run out of money. Not on my watch. We will balance this budget,’’ he said, his voice rising, in what sounded like an attempted applause line. There was no reaction from the crowd.
But his underdog defiant tone played better.
Earlier, he told reporters that people at the weekend-long convention had been urging him to “hang in there.’’

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