State Senator Velmanette Montgomery says that she and other minority female elected officials “absolutely do feel differently” than many of her male colleagues about “this attempt to cover up a domestic violence incident” involving Governor David Paterson and his aide, David Johnson.
“Every single one of my female colleagues has expressed nothing but anger” about the handling of this incident, Montgomery declared, adding that “many of my male colleagues also feel personally offended by it.” Montgomery pointed out that only two of the black elected officials who rallied around Paterson at Al Sharpton’s pow wow at Sylvia’s last Saturday were women — Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and Assemblywoman Inez Barron.
“My experience has always been that there is a huge amount of male chauvinism related to this process, especially on the political side,” said Montgomery, who’s been in the senate for 25 years, most of it as a friend and backer of one-time Democratic leader Paterson.
“There’s not so much chauvinism on the governmental side, but generally speaking, we’re not at the forefront of these earthquake political issues. I don’t know if that’s why women weren’t included, but that’s always how things work out.”
“When I look at the lineup at the table,” said the senator, referring to the head table of Rep. Charles Rangel, Sharpton, Rep. Greg Meeks and State Senator Malcolm Smith pictured at the press conference, “they were all men.” The organizers of these events “think categorically that the men are the heavyweights,” Montgomery added. “It will be the men who make the decisions, then we all will be pulled in because we are part of the movement.” Sharpton is hosting a second Sylvia’s session tonight.
“I feel sympathy for David Paterson,” she said, “but these are huge misjudgments on his part.” Referring to Johnson, who is alleged to have beaten his girlfriend, Sherr-una Booker, Montgomery said “this man had issues prior to October,” when the attack now under investigation occurred. “How could you allow it?” The senator said that this issue “is not about race as I see it.” She said Paterson hasn’t reached out to her or any of her of black female colleagues in the legislature, as far as she knows, although he invited an almost entirely male contingent of Hispanic elected officials, including state senators Pedro Espada and Ruben Diaz, to the mansion for a meeting earlier this week.
Assemblywoman Barron, who attended the Sharpton meeting with her husband, Councilman Charles Barron, said she and her husband “share the same position” and are “supporting the governor.” The assemblywoman acknowledged that the issue of the abuse of the woman, who is also black, “didn’t come up” in the last Sylvia’s meeting. “That’s not the issue,” she explained. “The issue is unproven allegations. We are supporting the governor unless he’s found guilty of a crime.” Asked if that wasn’t a low standard for a governor, she said “criminality or immortality” had to be proven.
“None of us support domestic violence,” the assemblywoman concluded, noting that she’d spoken to two minority female elected officials who told her that they would have gone to the meeting had they known about it.