And The Next Senator From New York Is . . .
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
By the time this is published, I assume Hillary Clinton’s selection as Secretary of State will formally be announced. She will in January, easily be confirmed by the new Senate, as a former leader of that body, a person clearly vetted during the Presidential campaign as well as during the eight year period she lived in the White House.
President-elect Obama’s probable selection of Hillary had started a wide-range of speculation – even this columnist chimed in previously – as to who would replace her in the Senate. The Senate seat from the Empire State – are we still that? – when officially vacant, will be filled by appointment by Governor David Patterson. The appointed Senator will serve until January 3, 2011 – and will have to stand for election to finish Hillary’s term on Election Day in November 2010.
Coincidentally, senior Senator Chuck Schumer will be standing for re-election at the same time as will Governor Paterson, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and Queens born and raised Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. All five of the government officials elected Statewide will stand for election at the same time. Assuming all incumbents run – a very high probability – five statewide elected Democrats will seek to be returned to office at the same time. I don’t know where to check the stats easily, but am certain it has never occurred before.
What makes it even more unusual is only two of them, Schumer and Cuomo, were elected to the positions by the people. Paterson ran as Elliot Spitzer’s Lieutenant Governor and became Governor when Spitzer resigned after admitting to using the service of prostitute Ashley Dupre and the Emperor’s Club prostitution ring. Assemblyman DiNapoli was selected by the State Legislature to fill the term of Comptroller Alan Hevesi – a Queens kid – who resigned after it was disclosed that he used State personnel to drive his ailing wife. And finally, Paterson will name the newest Senator to replace Hillary – it is possible, Hillary may step down before her official approval by the Senate to provide added seniority to her replacement.
However, it is important to note that New York voters have for years, traditionally split tickets and seemingly voted to ensure that at least one Statewide elected official was from a different party than the others. The election of Spitzer, Hevesi and Cuomo made 2007 the first time that this writer can recall all statewide elected officials came from one party.
And as Paterson weighs his options for selecting the next Senator from the State three things will weigh heavily on his mind. Obviously, he will want a Senator who will perform well for the country and New York State. But of at least equal importance will be the electability of that person who will be running with Paterson in 2010 and what that person can do to help Paterson’s re-election chances.
With a rumored Giuliani run for Governor on the Republican line and the next year being one filled with cutbacks in services, layoffs, and funding cuts to municipalities and programs statewide, Paterson faces a real test in putting together a campaign for reelection.
He needs all the help he can get and will need to rely on the strength of Schumer and Cuomo to help. DiNapoli will be facing the voters statewide for the first time. He has performed admirably so far but is not known as a fierce and tested campaigner or fundraiser. Peterson’s Senate appointment must be able to carry his or her own weight both as a fundraiser and campaigner. He or she must be easily electable and it would be preferred if the Senator brought along a constituency which is different than the support already had by Paterson, Schumer and Cuomo. Women and Latinos would be the obvious constituencies considered when making the choice.
Political junkies who have followed the blogs and articles know the names that have been bandied about. We share them with you – along with our brief analysis.
Our initial belief that Paterson would be best off politically by appointing himself and leaving the no-win job of steering New York through the turbulent economic waters appears to be unlikely. He could appoint Cuomo – a sure election winner – but would wind up with another candidate – the next Attorney General who would be selected by the legislature — running without being elected by the people.
Queens Congressman Greg Meeks, Manhattan- Queens Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Brooklyn-Queens Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Westchester Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who used to represent Queens, are on most everyone’s short list. County leader Congressman Joe Crowley’s name also appears, as do upstate (another constituency to consider) Congress members Kristin Gillibrand and Brian Higgins. Insiders point to the likelihood of a Velazquez pick since she meets both the woman and Latino criteria, but serious questions as to her statewide electability will likely prevent her selection. We believe Paterson will look for a name with greater statewide power.
Long Islanders Nassau County Exec Tom Suozzi and Congressman Steve Israel are strong choices but don’t add to diversity for Paterson.
State Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm Smith of Queens has been mentioned but is highly unlikely since he has yet to solidify his Senate leadership.
Bronx Beep Adolfo Carrion has been mentioned but we view him as a probable cabinet selection by President-elect Obama.
Environmental attorney Bobby Kennedy’s name has been bandied about as a possible Senator or Environmental position in the Obama administration – if he doesn’t go to Washington with the new President, he is a strong player for the Senate seat once held by his iconic father.
However, we like the dark-horse pick of his first cousin, Carolyn Kennedy. An early Obama supporter and member of the Obama Veep selection panel, she had been mentioned for UN Ambassador. She is a New Yorker, a woman and extremely electable. She likely would bring to Paterson more positive publicity than any other on the list. The daughter of JFK emerged as a national figure during the Obama campaign and is the likely person to carry on the family’s Senate legacy with the illness to Uncle Teddy.
Keep your eye on Governor David Paterson in days and weeks to come.
We’ll be keeping our eye on the little girl we remember from Camelot.