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Paterson sworn in as New York governor

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  • David Paterson becomes New York's first black governor
  • Paterson was elected to the New York State Senate in 1985 at the age of 31
  • Legally blind, Paterson is advocate for visually and physically impaired
  • Paterson sworn in following Eliot Spitzer's resignation
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(CNN) -- David Paterson was sworn in Monday as New York's 55th governor, following Eliot Spitzer's resignation amid his alleged connection to a prostitution ring.

Lawmakers chanted the new governor's name after New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye administered the oath of office.

"We move forward," Paterson said in a lively inaugural address punctuated by applause.

"Today is Monday. There is work to be done. There was an oath to be taken, there is trust that needs to be restored, there are issues that need to be addressed," he said.

Paterson, 53, who is the state's first African-American governor, is also New York's first legally blind governor.

"Let me reintroduce myself, I am David Paterson and I am the governor of New York State," Paterson said to roaring applause.

Paterson steps into the role of governor following Spitzer's resignation.

Spitzer stepped down after allegations -- but no charges -- that he is tied to an international prostitution ring ensnared in a federal investigation.

Speaking of the "difficult week" New York has endured since the shock of the allegations against Spitzer, a rising Democratic star who cultivated a squeaky-clean image, Paterson said, "I believe that if we stand together our collective talent will bring us to a better period. We don't know the path yet, but that's because we haven't blazed the trail. And I think you all know that I know a little about finding one's way through the dark."

"Of course I never expected to have the honor of serving as governor of New York state, but our constitution demands it. This transition today is an historic message to the world, that we live among the same values that we profess, and that we are government of laws and not individuals," Paterson said.

Paterson, who said he has been working to put together a budget by the end of the month, vowed to get to work immediately.

Both of New York's senators, Chuck Schumer and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, attended the swearing in, as did New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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.

He 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.

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.

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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