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Legislators have high hopes for Spitzer's successor

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: David A. Paterson "saddened" by scandal, will take office Monday
  • NEW: Republican Senate majority leader to become lieutenant governor
  • Legally blind, Paterson is advocate for visually and physically impaired
  • Elected to the New York State Senate in 1985 at the age of 31
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(CNN) -- With New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation, Lt. Gov. David Paterson will become the first African-American governor of the state and the fourth in U.S. history.

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David A. Paterson will take over as New York governor on Monday.

"Like all New Yorkers, I am saddened by what we have learned over the past several days," Paterson, 53, said Wednesday in a statement issued by his office.

"On a personal level, Gov. Spitzer and Silda have been close and steadfast friends. As an elected official the governor has worked hard for the people of New York.

"My heart goes out to him and to his family at this difficult and painful time," the statement continued. "I ask all New Yorkers to join Michelle and me in prayer for them.

"It is now time for Albany to get back to work as the people of this state expect from us." Video Watch how Paterson rose through the ranks »

State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said in a news conference he had an "excellent relationship" with Paterson, a Democrat.

"We're going forward on managing the affairs of the people of this state," said Bruno, a Republican, who under the state Constitution will take over as lieutenant governor.

"David is a wonderful young man -- very bright, very intelligent," said Assemblyman Herman Farrell, chairman of the Ways and Means committee. "He would provide good leadership."

Others also hold high hopes for Paterson in the wake of the Spitzer scandal.

"The public is hoping for that replacement to redeem the office and to redeem their faith in elected officials in general. So David Paterson, in a sense, walks into a great opportunity," said Steve Kornacki of the New York Observer.

Paterson is legally blind, and although documentation is scarce, it is widely believed that he will be the nation's first blind governor when he takes office Monday.

Paterson was first elected to the New York State Senate in 1985, where he represented the 30th District, encompassing Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side.

In November 2002, Paterson was elected New York Senate minority leader. He is the highest-ranking African-American elected official in New York state and is the first nonwhite legislative leader in Albany's history. He addressed the 2004 Democratic National Convention, as well as the U.S. Conference of Mayors that same year.

Paterson was elected New York's first African-American lieutenant governor on November 7, 2006, on a ticket headed by Spitzer. As lieutenant governor, Paterson led the administration's charge in several areas, including stem cell research, alternative energy, domestic violence and the role of minority- and female-owned businesses.

Paterson earned state and national attention for getting a 283-year-old burial ground of Colonial-era African-Americans in lower Manhattan designated a national historic landmark.

Paterson is a leading advocate for the visually and physically impaired. His 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention marked the first time a visually impaired person addressed the convention. He is a member of the American Foundation for the Blind, serves as a member of the Democratic National Committee and is a board member of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Video Watch what world looks like through Paterson's eyes »

According to the National Governors' Association, previous African-American governors were P.B.S. Pinchback, who served as acting governor of Louisiana for 36 days in 1872-73 while the sitting governor was being impeached; L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, who became the nation's first elected black governor in 1990; and Deval Patrick, the current governor of Massachusetts.

Paterson's father, Basil, was the first nonwhite secretary of state of New York and the first African-American vice chairman of the national Democratic Party. He lost a race for lieutenant governor in 1970 and was deputy mayor of New York City under Mayor Ed Koch, according to The New York Times.

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David Paterson earned his bachelor's degree in history from Columbia University and got his law degree from Hofstra Law School in 1982.

He lives in Harlem with his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, and their two children, Ashley and Alex. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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