(AP Photo/Mike Groll)
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- With his predecessor's term doomed by a sex scandal, brand-new Gov. David Paterson tried to come clean about his own skeletons just hours after assuming office by acknowledging a years-old affair.
Paterson was sworn in almost exactly a week after allegations first surfaced that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer was "Client 9" of a high-priced call girl service. Responding to rumors circulating in Albany, Paterson and his wife, Michelle, told the Daily News of New York City that both had affairs during a rough patch in their marriage several years ago.
"This was a marriage that appeared to be going sour at one point," Paterson told the Daily News. "But I went to counseling and we decided we wanted to make it work. Michelle is well aware of what went on."
Paterson told the newspaper that he maintained a relationship with another woman from 1999 until 2001. He and his wife, Michelle, eventually sought counseling and repaired their relationship. The couple did not go into details.
Paterson and the other woman sometimes stayed at a Days Inn on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the governor said, adding that his Albany staff sometimes stayed there as well when they were in the city. Paterson said he did not use government or campaign funds to pay for the romantic encounters.
A spokesman for the governor did not immediately reply to requests for comment about Paterson's interview, which came hours after the governor assumed office with a message of unity. He became the state's first black chief executive and the nation's second legally blind governor.
"We move forward. Today is Monday. There is work to be done," Paterson said. "There was an oath to be taken. There's trust that needs to be restored. There are issues that need to be addressed."
Spitzer, according to ex-aides, was at his Columbia County farmhouse at the time of Paterson's swearing-in.
Where Spitzer's 14-month tenure was marked by partisan sniping, Paterson, a fellow Democrat, reached across the aisle in his remarks from the ornate Assembly chamber. The crowd gave the new governor a two-minute standing ovation and chanted "David! David! David!"
"What we are going to do from now on is what we always should have done all along," the former state senator said. "We're going to work together."
Legislators gave Paterson hearty applause when he called for cooperation, and laughs when he made playful jabs at Republican leaders.
He said of a dinner invitation from Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno, probably Spitzer's most bitter rival: "I'll go. I'm going to take my taster with me."
He teased Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, whom Spitzer famously and profanely said he would steamroll, that he would teach him how to play basketball. Tedisco, an upstate Republican, was a basketball star at Union College.
Paterson, 53, who becomes New York's 55th governor, has said he will get right to work. The Legislature faces an April 1 deadline to pass an estimated $124 billion budget, and Paterson also said that health care, education, jobs and problems facing "the single mother with two jobs" need immediate attention.
Before reluctantly accepting Spitzer's offer to run with him as lieutenant governor, Paterson was a Democratic state senator for more than two decades, representing parts of Harlem and Manhattan's Upper West Side.
His wife had tears in her eyes for most of the ceremony.
"Every time I hear David speak, I want to cry," she said afterward. "I'm just very happy I was able to live to see this day."
Politicians past and present, including presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and governors from three neighboring states, attended the ceremony.
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 in Washington the night before Valentine's Day.
Associated Press writers Michael Gormley, Michael Hill and Michael Virtanen contributed to this report.
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