Former Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday was formally installed by the state Democratic Committee as its next chairman, assuming the post from Harlem Assemblyman Keith Wright.

Paterson, addressing the delegates on the first day of the Democratic convention here in Melville, naturally opened with a joke.

“So you thought you were rid of me,” Paterson said.

A woman in the crowd yelled, “We love you David.”

Paterson, not missing a beat, said: “Give it a few minutes.”

It was only four years ago that Paterson declined to run for re-election as Democrats in the state coalesced around Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Now Paterson is assuming a more overtly political role for Cuomo, and his speech reflected that, hitting on similar themes the state party wants to get across at the convention.

Democrats are trying to tie state Republicans in New York to national “tea party” GOP lawmakers in Washington.

“I actually could like Republicans if they were really Republicans,” Paterson said, charging that today’s GOP has “extremists on one side of the party are controlling the whole.”

Paterson pointed to Republicans of the past like Sen. Jacob Javits who were more moderate in their politics.

“We respect their point of view,” Paterson said of mainstream Republicans. “I’m talking about an insensitive point of view that is based on a hateful ideology.”

And he knocked Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino for presiding over one of the highest taxed counties in the nation.

“This is like getting Bernie Madoff to run the SEC,” he said.

There were still moments of Paterson being Paterson, including a brief aside when his cell phone.

“My phone just rang,” he said mid-speech, “I wonder who it was.”

He did not answer the phone.