22 January 2009

New York Senatorial Endgame II

Governor Paterson is scheduled to name Senator Clinton's replacement at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow. Fox News has jumped the gun by claiming that Paterson has chosen Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, from the congressional district neighboring mine. Gillibrand has been mentioned fairly constantly since the saga began, reportedly as a favorite of Sen. Schumer. Others have recommended her as an upstater, and it should be noted, given expectations of Caroline Kennedy's fundraising potential, that Gillibrand beat back a self-made millionaire last fall in what was estimated, at one point, as the second-most expensive House race in the nation. She has moved to the forefront following Caroline's withdrawal amid gossip that the Kennedys would find it unacceptable for Paterson to name Attorney General Cuomo, a former in-law. Why their opinion should matter in New York State is a fair question, but fundraising, again, is an important concern for the governor.

One obvious reservation about taking Gillibrand out of the House is the likelihood that her district will fall back into Republican hands. She is the first Democrat to represent the area in a long time, and got the seat because the incumbent Republican was scandal-ridden. Since there is no alternative to a special election in such a case, nothing stops the millionaire, Sandy Treadwell, from trying again, with no obvious talent to stop him this time.

Further reservations are reportedly expressed by downstate Democrats who wanted one of their own chosen, and by more liberal Democrats who regard Gillibrand as something of a "blue dog." On one hand, too bad. On the other, these are perfect arguments for primaries as well as special elections in cases like these. I hope people are unhappy with Gillibrand, though I hope they are less displeased as she (again, hopefully) proves herself in the office she seems poised to fill. People up here seem to think highly enough of her that they'd like her chances in a real election, which presumably will come in 2010. But a special election would have been the right way to go all along, and the silly intrigues surrounding the succession should prove the necessity of reform.

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