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President Obama requested Gov. David Paterson Saturday to drop out of the New York governor's race, marking an unusual and controversial intervention from the federal government into state politics.
Gov. David Paterson isn't scrapping his plans to run for the office he inherited 18 months ago despite growing pressure from Washington and intervention by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has contacted the governor and the White House over his concern.
A senior Democratic adviser close to Paterson said Sunday that New York's first black governor is still planning to run and is focusing on the state's fiscal crisis. The adviser spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak for Paterson.
The governor's office has refused to comment since reports Saturday night revealed the Washington-based effort to persuade the governor to drop out of the 2010 race. That would pave the way for the far more popular Andrew Cuomo, the state's first-term attorney general.
Cuomo is said to be the preferred choice of high-level Democrats, and beat Paterson among likely voters in a recent Marist poll.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said Sunday on his radio show that he has spoken to the White House and Paterson about his concern that Democrats do what is best for the people of New York. He wouldn't say whether he was advising Paterson to drop out.
Obama has not spoken to Paterson about the race, said a senior White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive political matter. But it's no secret that Democrats -- in New York, in Washington and at the White House, are very concerned about Paterson's re-election bid.
The Obama White House made the request to Paterson's office under instructions from Obama's key political advisers, two senior administration officials and a New York Democratic official told the New York Times Saturday evening.
The Obama administration has reportedly grown wary of Paterson's statewide unpopularity, the officials said, fearing Paterson's status in New York could demoralize other sitting Democrats in Congress.
"Is there concern about the situation in New York? Absolutely," one of the administration officials told the Times. "Has that concern been conveyed to the governor? Yes," the source said.
Queens Representative Gregory W. Meeks, a close friend to the Obama administration, reportedly delivered the news to Paterson's camp Saturday. It wasn't immediately revealed what Meeks had said, but sources confirmed it involved Obama's people asking Paterson to withdraw from the race.
"The message the White House wanted to send -- that it wants Paterson to step aside -- was delivered," the Democratic operative told the Times. "He is resistant."
On Sunday, while at the African American Day Parade in Harlem, Paterson was resolute.
"My plans have not changed," he said. "I am running for office."