By DAVID M. HALBFINGER and DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI
Published: February 4, 2009
When David A. Paterson became governor last March, one of his first congratulatory calls came from a seemingly unlikely well-wisher: former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato.
Later, when tensions erupted between Mr. Paterson and a Republican legislative leader, Mr. D’Amato quietly intervened, seeking to broker a peace.
Mr. D’Amato surprised many TV viewers, especially liberal Democrats, when he appeared alongside Mr. Paterson two weeks ago as the governor announced his selection for United States senator, Kirsten E. Gillibrand. The 71-year-old Mr. D’Amato, for whom Ms. Gillibrand had interned, beamed like the father of the bride, positioning himself on the dais more prominently than sitting members of Congress, legislative leaders, and even the senator who had ousted him, Charles E. Schumer.
But that conspicuous appearance was only the highlight of a concerted behind-the-scenes effort by the ever-adaptable Mr. D’Amato, a Republican and lobbyist, to win favor with state Democrats, who for the first time since the New Deal control the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature.