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Under Fire, Paterson Ends His Campaign for Governor

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Governor Paterson announced Friday that he was suspending his election campaign.

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Gov. David A. Paterson ended his campaign for election on Friday amid crumbling support from his party and an uproar over his administration’s intervention in a domestic violence case involving a close aide.

How to Govern New York

Room for Debate

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Michael Appleton for The New York Times

Gov. David A. Paterson attended a town hall event held by State Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright at a community center in Harlem on Thursday.

The announcement came less than a week after Mr. Paterson formally announced his candidacy.

The governor acknowledged that the episode involving his longtime aide David W. Johnson had become a distraction, but he vowed to serve out the remaining 308 days of his term and remain focused on his work.

“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,” Mr. Paterson told a room full of reporters in an afternoon news conference.

In the most dramatic moment, the governor raised his right hand and offered what he called a “personal oath,” stressing that he had not abused his power in his response to the domestic violence case.

“I have never abused my office, not now, not ever,” said Mr. Paterson, his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, by his side.

“I believe that when the facts are reviewed, the truth will prevail,” he added.

Even as the governor was speaking, however, new calls emerged for him to resign, amid a criminal investigation by the office of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. Moments after the governor’s news conference ended, the New York City comptroller, John C. Liu, became the latest fellow Democrat to call for the governor to step down.

And some Democrats expressed skepticism that the politically wounded Mr. Paterson could effectively lead a state facing a deficit of more than $8 billion.

The White House, which had tried to nudge Mr. Paterson out of the race, said he was right to end his candidacy. The reports of his administration’s intervention in the domestic abuse case were “disturbing,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary.

“Anybody that read these articles believes at a minimum he made the right decision about his re-election,” Mr. Gibbs said.

State Democrats were moving to anoint Mr. Cuomo, who has been quietly preparing his own campaign for governor, as their candidate.

The governor’s withdrawal came less than two days after The New York Times reported that his administration had intervened in the episode involving Mr. Johnson, 37, who was accused by a longtime companion of assaulting her on Halloween.

The woman was twice granted a temporary order of protection against Mr. Johnson, but she complained in court that the State Police had been harassing her to drop the matter. In addition, the governor talked to the woman himself only a day before she was scheduled to appear in court to seek a final order of protection. She failed to show up for that appearance, and the case was dropped. The woman, saying she fears retaliation, has requested that her identity be withheld.

The governor initially seemed to believe that his campaign could survive the revelations and was seemingly undisturbed for most of Thursday, even as prominent Democrats publicly questioned his political prospects.

He attended two private lunches with donors in Manhattan, at the Four Seasons and the Bryant Park Grill.

But after he returned to his campaign office about 3:30 p.m., his political advisers gave him bad news: they had been canvassing Democrats about whether the campaign should continue, and they found that support for the governor was evaporating.

Some elected officials who had agreed to attend a big homecoming rally, planned for Saturday in Harlem, expressed wariness about appearing.

“It made no political sense to move forward with that kind of announcement in light of the allegations,” said Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Democrat who represents the Upper West Side.

“It really would be unfair to people who have been loyal to the governor to put them in a position like that,” he said, adding, “It was over.”

The governor and his advisers had also become unnerved because the Rev. Al Sharpton, who had been gradually moving away from his embrace of Mr. Paterson’s candidacy, was organizing a major meeting of black political leaders at Sylvia’s in Harlem on Saturday to discuss the governor’s situation.

On Thursday afternoon, the governor and his campaign manager, Richard Fife, began a conversation about his options. About 90 minutes later, they were joined by Jay Jacobs, the state party chairman and a key Paterson ally. Sitting around a conference table in the campaign office, which overlooks Park Avenue, as a snowstorm whirled outside, the governor listened to Mr. Jacobs explain why the race was unwinnable. Perhaps most significant, Mr. Jacobs said it would be extremely difficult for Mr. Paterson to win the 25 percent of delegates needed at the state party convention in May to secure a place on the primary ballot.

After Mr. Jacobs finished speaking, about 5:20, the governor agreed and said he would quit the race.

Peter Baker contributed reporting.

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