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First black governor set to take over

Eyes in a still shell-shocked Albany, the state capital, now turn to the quiet-spoken David Paterson, a former state representative from Harlem. Mr Paterson, who is blind, will be New York's first black governor and only the fourth African American to lead a US state.

"Like all New Yorkers I am saddened by what we have learnt over the past several days," Mr Paterson said. "On a personal level Governor Spitzer and Silda have been close and steadfast friends. As an elected official, the governor has worked hard for the people of New York."

Seen by many as standing slightly to the left of Mr Spitzer, as lieutenant-general, Mr Paterson, 55, had the task of leading the charge in Albany on issues ranging from stem cell research to alternative energy sources and combating domestic violence. He surfaced on the national stage in 2004 when he addressed the Democratic National Convention, the first blind person to do so.

Some friends of Mr Paterson were surprised in 2006 when he agreed to run on a ticket with Mr Spitzer. Representing Harlem, he was already the minority leader of the state senate and had a good shot one day of becoming its majority leader. It was a gamble that appeared to have paid off last night.

He will take office on Monday facing an array of problems, notably the sticky task of ushering through a state budget that is meant to be completed by the end of March. But while Mr Spitzer had earned a reputation for confrontation and impatience in Albany, Mr Paterson is widely respected by members of both parties and is considered more skilled in the art political persuasion and compromise.

Not that he is without a stubborn streak. For instance he insisted on joining a charity basketball game a decade ago with former governor Mario Cuomo on the other team. "David was on the other side," Mr Cuomo commented. "I said, 'What are doing here? You're supposed to be blind'. He said, 'I'm guarding you.' Just what I wanted: a blind guy to guard me."