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What led to this?

We had hoped Virginia Fields was done with politics. As long as she remains in the private sector and doesn't meddle in government -- either seeking elected office or trying to influence public issues (other than her right to vote) -- we don't wish her ill.

But as an elected official, or as a candidate for office, Virginia Fields should be nothing more than a footnote in the political graveyard.

So when Manhattan State Senator (and Senate Minority Leader) David Paterson was tapped by Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Elliot Spitzer to run for Lieutenant Governor, the political winds in Harlem shifted.

Perhaps more than any area of the city, the Harlem Clubhouse -- Charles Rangel, David Dinkens, Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, etc. -- is firmly entrenched. The new City Council member, Inex Dickens (a real estate developer and a daughter of Lloyd E. Dickens, a former Assemblyman), comes from this club and was given the nod by Rangel last year.

But there's more at stake. The 'club' represents the conservative political interests ... the landlords, the developers, the corporations. Deals are made for their interests, not necessarily the larger Harlem population. No matter what the perception is of Charles Rangel in national politics, on the local level he's big business as usual. It's been like this for years, going back to the days of Adam Clayton Powell and before.

There's no doubt Rangel would support someone like Virginia Fields. He trained her. And the future of his interests are at stake.

Rangel and his friends are getting along in years (he's 77) and the scuttlebut is that he intends to retire in a few years.

Whoever runs for his seat, and there are a number of potential candidates, would greatly benefit from being positioned as a sitting State Senator.

So when David Paterson gives up his seat at the end of this year, the Rangel machine will do everything in their power to hold it for one of their own.

On January 23, the New York Times reported that Paterson was picked by Spitzer as his running mate.

See the Times article after the jump.

January 23, 2006
Spitzer Asks State Senator From Harlem to Join Ticket
New York Times
by Patrick D. Healy

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democratic candidate for governor this year, has asked State Senator David A. Paterson of Manhattan to be his running mate, and Mr. Paterson has agreed, according to Democrats close to Mr. Spitzer.

The unusually early selection of a lieutenant governor candidate carries several political benefits for Mr. Spitzer, and some potential risks. It could also portend a political power shift in the Senate, where Mr. Paterson has been the Democratic minority leader since 2002. If he were elected in November, another Democrat would take the Senate post at the start of a new era of power after 12 years of Republican rule under Gov. George E. Pataki.

Respected and popular in the party, the 51-year-old Mr. Paterson is widely regarded as a smart political tactician who helped Democrats pick up seats in the Senate in the 2002 elections.

As the highest ranking African-American in state government, he would also help solidify Mr. Spitzer's support among minority voters, a crucial demographic group in any fight for the Democratic Party nomination. Mr. Spitzer may face such a fight if, as many expect, Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi decides to vie for the nomination in the September primary.

Mr. Paterson's history may intrigue some voters: He is legally blind, born with no sight in his left eye and severely limited vision in his right. On the campaign trail he has recalled being "the first legally disabled person to attend public schools" in his district. Today he plays basketball and has run in the New York City marathon. He has also become a master of legislative politics despite being unable to read the body language of his rivals, an art form in Albany.

Yet the choice increases the possibility that the Democratic ticket in 2006 will be dominated by New York City politicians, forgoing the geographic diversity that both political parties tend to value. Mr. Spitzer lives on the Upper East Side; Mr. Paterson represents Harlem and the Upper West Side; State Comptroller Alan Hevesi is from Queens; and several candidates for attorney general are from the city or suburbs, such as Andrew M. Cuomo, Mark Green, Charlie King, and Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky.

"I think it's a real problem not to have some geographic balance on the ticket, and I don't think that it helps their gubernatorial chances not to have a geographic balance," said George Arzt, a veteran communications and political consultant in the city. "The last time that balance was absent was 1970, and that ticket ended in defeat."

That year, the four Democrats on the ticket were all downstate candidates; three of them were Jewish, and the fourth was Basil A. Paterson - Mr. Paterson's father.

In a statewide campaign that has several candidates running as Albany outsiders, Mr. Paterson's insider credentials might also re-enforce the same image for Mr. Spitzer, who has been attorney general for seven years. Mr. Paterson has been a strong voice for change in the State Senate, as well as a critic and a friend to the Republican majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno.

By tapping Mr. Paterson, Mr. Spitzer also gives his political opponents another target to attack. Mr. Suozzi has made clear that if he runs, a part of his platform will be overhauling the state government that Mr. Paterson has helped lead.

Candidates for governor typically choose running mates around the time of the parties' spring conventions, which are in late May this year. Several other Democrats are running for lieutenant governor already, but the Spitzer camp was eager to move on the Paterson choice and elevate him as their de facto nominee.

The Paterson choice swiftly triggered speculation about Mr. Spitzer's motives:

- Was he worried about his support among minority voters, which some advisers to Mr. Spitzer say could be stronger?

- Does he regard Mr. Suozzi as a serious threat and thereby see lining up his running mate as a way to quickly unify the party around the ticket?

- Would one result be to swing attention in the attorney general's race to an upstate Democratic candidate, Denise O'Donnell of Buffalo, a former prosecutor who Mr. Spitzer is said to admire?

Ms. O'Donnell, in an interview today, hailed Mr. Paterson as "a tremendous asset to the ticket" and said she would welcome the chance to add balance, as a woman from Buffalo, to a Spitzer-Paterson-Hevesi ticket.

"I do think it's important that a ticket reflect the entire Democratic Party, and being from upstate, being a woman, is helpful in the race," said Ms. O'Donnell, a former United States attorney for the Western District of New York in the Clinton administration. "But the truth of the matter is that I'm running because I believe I have the best qualifications for attorney general."

Advisers to Mr. Spitzer said today that the decision was based solely on his appreciation for Mr. Paterson's skills and background, his reform agenda in the Senate, and their personal friendship.

"David has solid reform credentials and is someone who will be a real partner with Eliot," said one Democrat close to Mr. Spitzer. "Eliot loves David and considers him a breath of fresh air. He thinks he's bright and capable, with a personal story that's compelling. Eliot's also really comfortable with him. It makes sense on a lot of levels."

Mr. Paterson was not immediately available for comment this afternoon.

Mr. Paterson is a member of a prominent Harlem political family. His father Basil, a former state senator and secretary of state, helped build the Harlem Clubhouse, which has been a force in New York Democratic politics.

In an interesting twist, Mr. Paterson's father has already endorsed another candidate for lieutenant governor: Leecia Eve, a former aide to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and a daughter of Arthur O. Eve, a former deputy speaker of the State Assembly. Basil A. Paterson made the endorsement in October along with other members of the Harlem Clubhouse. The senior Mr. Paterson did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Other Democrats planning to run for lieutenant governor are John Cohen, a surgeon who advised John Kerry's presidential campaign, and Assemblyman Thomas P. DiNapoli, of Thomaston.