Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pick a Senator, any Senator

For those of you living outside of New York State, you might have heard that we're down a Senator.

For those of you living inside of New York State, you probably haven't noticed.

Hillary Clinton has indeed taken over as Secretary of State, resigning her position as New York's Senator in the process. That leaves us with an interesting situation, with all sorts of angles.

Governor David Paterson is expected to name a replacement for Clinton as early as Friday. You might recall that Paterson took over the job when Eliot Spitzer self-destructed in spectacular fashion and was forced to resign.

Paterson had two issues hanging over him in this choice, and one of them was named Rudy Giuliani. Any choice for the vacant Senate seat will face a special election in 2010, and then another election for the full term of the job in 2012. If Paterson wanted to be a good Democrat, and we'll assume he did, he needed to take someone who can win that special election.

That should have eliminated everyone but two candidates, and one dropped out. Andrew Cuomo and Caroline Kennedy both had the star power to go up against a Giuliani candidacy in 2010. But when Kennedy withdrew, it apparently left Cuomo. Realistically, was there anyone else?

Turns out there was. Word leaked out Thursday night that Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand will be picked for the job on Friday.

This is curious. The new Governor probably has his eye on actually running for office himself rather than being remembered as a guy who took over for a while through resignation. But Cuomo couldn't be blamed for thinking about the Governor's job himself, particularly with an incumbent who has never been elected statewide on his own merits. Especially now. So Paterson missed a chance to push his potential rival for the job out of the way. Hmmm.

Kennedy's curious quest for the office still holds some fascination. This is a woman who showed little interest in public office for years. And who could blame her for staying out of the spotlight, considering her family history?

Then came her endorsement of Barack Obama during the primaries, and her work on the selection of a Vice President. But it was still a surprise when she announced that she was interested in the job of Senator of New York.

Kennedy certainly brought a big name to the search, but when she actually started doing media interviews for the job she came across as stumbling and uncertain -- as if she wasn't used to being in the public spotlight, which she really wasn't. Even Sarah Palin jumped in to say that Kennedy was getting something of a free ride over her lack of political experience, while Palin was roasted for the same quality during her candidacy for Vice President. Palin apparently doesn't know the difference between being a 72-year-old's heartbeat away from the Presidency and a junior Senator from New York, but Palin's clumsy point did have a hint of validity.

We're not sure at this point why Kennedy gave up the quest, but it will be interesting to see if she's found the political waters too chilly after sticking her toe in them. In the meantime, Paterson now has to think about a challenge from Cuomo, and Gillibrand has to think about a challenge from Giuliani.

Unless, of course, Giuliani decides he wants to run for Governor in 2010.

Ah, politics. A complicated business.

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