Paterson takes over as governor

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(AP) - Democrat David Paterson was sworn in Monday as New York's first black governor following Eliot Spitzer's abrupt resignation amid a prostitution scandal.

"In so many ways, we woke this morning to a not-so-ordinary day," Paterson said in his speech before a joint session of the Legislature. But, "today, like we always do, in spite of the obstacles, regardless of the circumstances, we move forward."

Paterson, who is legally blind, became the state's 55th governor after succeeding Spitzer, who resigned an hour earlier after being implicated in a high-priced call girl investigation.

Lawmakers past and present, including presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and governors from three neighboring states, erupted into a two-minute standing ovation after Paterson took the oath of office in the ornate, standing-room only Assembly Chamber.

He was sworn in by Chief Judge Judith Kaye, who became chief judge when Sol Wachtler, the former head of the state's highest court, was caught up in a sex scandal.

Paterson has promised to help the state heal from the scandal that ended Spitzer's term after 14 months, much of it spent in conflict with the Legislature.

The 53-year-old from Harlem was first elected to the state Senate's Democratic minority in 1985 and became minority leader in 2002. There he succeeded in eroding the Republicans' 60 years of almost uninterrupted control of the chamber, while maintaining a cordial working relationship with Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno.

Their first order of business is to negotiate a state budget, expected to total around $124 billion. The Spitzer scandal has put the process behind schedule by a couple of days, but legislative leaders and Paterson said they are still optimistic an agreement can be struck by the April 1 deadline.

Paterson graduated from Columbia University and Hofstra School of Law and traces his political lineage to a New York City power base for Democrats.

His father, Basil, a former state senator representing Harlem and later New York's first black secretary of state, was part of a political fraternity that included fellow Democrats U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins - the city's first black mayor - and former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton.

"It's very daunting" Paterson said Friday. "I definitely feel anxiety ... but in the end, we have a job to do. And we're here to do that job."

He becomes the nation's first legally blind governor to serve more than a few days. Bob Riley was governor of Arkansas for 11 days in 1975 following Dale Bumpers' election to the U.S. Senate.

Federal prosecutors must still decide whether to pursue charges against Spitzer. The married father of three teenage girls was accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars on prostitutes - including a call girl "Kristen" in Washington the night before Valentine's Day.

For the full swearing in ceremony, go to channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.WatchPaterson?s swearing in ceremonyMore on the Spitzer sex scandalReaction about having a blind governorVideo of Spitzer's announcementVideo of Bruno's commentsReadSpitzer's Resignation LetterComplete text of Spitzer's resignation speechProfileof Lt. Gov. David PatersonLt. Gov. Paterson's comments on Spitzer's resignationReport links Spitzer to prostitution ringNew York State Constitution

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