Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 25, 2008
POLITICS: New York Senate Shuffle

So, assuming Hillary Clinton is, in fact, leaving the Senate to become Secretary of State (and assuming, see here, here and here, that she can Constitutionally take the job), that sets off the next round of political merry-go-round for New York: who will be appointed by Governor David Paterson to replace her?

Recall the setting. Hillary was re-elected in 2006, defeating Yonkers Mayor John Spencer; her term would be up in 2012, but Gov. Paterson gets to nominate a replacement, who would then face the voters in a special election in 2010. Gov. Paterson was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006 and took over as Governor earlier this year after Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer is up for re-election in 2010, meaning that all three major statewide offices will be on the ballot in 2010, two of the three filled with incumbents who would be facing the voters for the first time, an unusually fluid situation.

First of all, one thing that seems certain is that this alignment will result in Chuck Schumer running unopposed for re-election. Paterson and the new Senator, as well as the newly elected State Senators who have given the Democrats a majority in the State Senate, will all be juicy but expensive targets to take on in a state that tilts heavily Democratic; the NY GOP can only spare so many resources, and even in a good year for Republicans (as 2010 is likely to be), and Schumer is nearly bulletproof unless he goes the way of Spitzer.

Second, I don't think Bill Clinton will be interested in the job. Hillary, frankly, is apparently jumping at being Secretary of State to escape the dull anonymity of the Senate (bear in mind that Democratic Senators lacking seniority and committee chairmanships will now be expected to fall quietly in line with the Obama agenda no less than his Cabinet members) for the world stage and never have to campaign in Rochester and Buffalo again. I don't see Bill wanting to become a freshman legislator.

Third, while David Paterson is a protege of Charlie Rangel, Rangel's powerful position as Ways and Means Chairman means he won't be much interested in a "promotion" to the Senate. Likewise, Louise Slaughter would have been the logical choice among upstate Congresspersons, but Slaughter is 79 and chair of the House Rules Committee; like Rangel, she's too powerful and too old to leave her House slot and start over.

So who does that leave? There would appear to be five logical contenders.

(1) Andrew Cuomo is the logical favorite, for reasons of naked self-interest (Paterson fears, justifiably, that the State Attorney General and former HUD Secretary may challenge him for the nomination for his dad's old job). Cuomo has no particular regional base in the state - his father was from Queens, but Andrew has spent years in Albany and Washington - but has statewide name recognition and has won statewide election. Brian Faughnan suggests that the camera-hungry Schumer may be opposed to Paterson picking the high-profile Cuomo. Of course, Cuomo's tenure at HUD will sooner or later lead to tough questions about his role at the creation of the housing crisis. A Cuomo appointment would also set off a second round of musical chairs, as the AG job is a powerful one with many open investigations.

(2) Kirsten Gillibrand - I agree with ironman at Next Right that Gillibrand is a strong contender. Paterson is a black urban liberal from Harlem (if that's not redundant); to win statewide, he needs to draw support from upstate and reach out to white and/or Latino voters. Tabbing Gillibrand has the hallmarks of the classic ticket-balancer: she's relatively young (42), telegenic, Catholic, a mother of two young children and represents a traditionally Republican district she won in 2006 from the excessively hard-partying John Sweeney. Gillibrand might want to get out of Dodge - her district is sooner or later going to give her a tough re-election battle (in 2008, Gillibrand and her self-funding opponent combined to raise more money than the combatants in any other Congressional district in the country), and as Clyde Haberman notes, New York is likely to lose Congressional seats by 2012, so Democrats in marginal upstate districts will be scrambling to hold on.

The downside? Egos (of which New York politics has a perennial surplus) would be bruised if Gillibrand leapfrogs over more veteran lawmakers, including her old boss Cuomo (who she worked for at HUD). Democrats could well lose her House seat. And liberals may not be happy with picking a member of the Blue Dog caucus who has a 100% rating from the NRA, opposed Eliot Spitzer's plan to give drivers' licenses to illegal aliens, is a sponsor of the SAVE Act and of employer verification of legal status of workers and, supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent. (I'd expect her to drift leftward in the Senate, but if you're a Democrat looking to install someone in a safe seat, you might want someone more reliable).

(3) Nydia Velazquez - Another NY City arch-liberal (she voted to investigate President Bush for impeachment proceedings over the Iraq War), Congresswoman Velazquez - the chair of the Hispanic Caucus and the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress - would cement Paterson's ties with Latino voters. There's speculation that she may prefer running the Hispanic Caucus, which makes little enough sense to me, and I'm not sure how well she would play in a statewide election. Wikipedia notes that "During her [1992] campaign for the House seat, her medical records, including documented clinical depression and an attempted suicide [in 1991], were leaked to the press. She quickly held a press conference and said that she had been undergoing counseling for years and was emotionally and psychologically healthy." (This 1992 NYT report discusses the suicide attempt.)

(4) Byron Brown, the Mayor of Buffalo and a former State Senator. Brown is African-American, a mixed blessing for Paterson if he's looking to expand his appeal across racial/ethnic lines, but he's also the mayor of a key upstate city. Brown's record as an executive means he's less immediately identifiable along hot-button voting lines.

(5) Brian Higgins, a Congressman also from Buffalo, first elected in 2004. Higgins claims to be a New Democrat but is a much more conventional liberal than Gillibrand.

As for the GOP side, it remains to be seen. Mayor Bloomberg, now an Independent, has twisted many arms in the City Council to remove term limits so he can run for a third term in 2009; I assume that means he's staying put in 2010. Rudy Giuliani probably couldn't win a statewide election for the Senate at this point, but would be a very strong candidate for Governor if he was more motivated than during his disappointing presidential campaign; if the voters are unhappy with Albany, well, lots of politicians run on "change" but no living political figure has a record of bringing about as dramatic change as Giuliani did as Mayor of New York. Combative, maverick Long Island Congressman Peter King has talked about running for the Governorship as well, but King would probably be the GOP's strongest candidate for the Senate seat, depending who Paterson picks.

It's going to be an interesting two years here in the Empire State.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:49 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)

It seems to me that whoever Paterson chooses will draw a primary challenge. So I don't know how much ticket balancing arguments will work. In fact, I think the odds that Paterson himself draws a primary challenge are at least 50/50.

As for the GOP? Who cares. The GOP could run Abe Lincoln and he wouldn't win, much less Peter King.

Posted by: A.S. at November 25, 2008 2:42 PM

I think if we ran Rudy against whoever gets the Hillary seat he could win

Posted by: dch at November 25, 2008 3:11 PM

Interesting question, plus we learned a new word. Couldn't they just use the word wage?

So here is a hypothetical (the kind Scalia loves): what if she takes the job for the old salary? Or even no pay?

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 25, 2008 4:27 PM

"Couldn't they just use the word wage?"

in the beginning Senators just received a $6 per diem. Emoluments can refer to fees received and other perks that may attach to a job. as other sites have noted (notably Simon over at Stubborn Facts) usage back then referred separately to "salary, fees or emoluments of any kind"

and even if they roll back the salary, that still doesn't get you past that the salary was increased during her elected term...and her not taking pay has the same problem. It doesn't say "Net" increase

Posted by: Maryland Conservatarian at November 25, 2008 6:15 PM

Two Comments:

1) It will be interesting to see if this portion of the consitution is applied and when. Is it Obama's job (once President) not to nominate her since it might be against the constituion, the congress' job to not confirm her, someone needs to start a lawsuit so the courts can decide, or the judge who swears her? When/who exactly decides that this clause applies?

2) "It's going to be an interesting two years here in the Empire State." is an understatement. NY state (as viewed from the upstate perspective) is a total mess and getting worse. Neither party seems to have a clue how (or the willto ) turn this ship around. We need a strong govenor/legislature who will make the hard choices.

Posted by: Lee at November 26, 2008 7:32 AM

Any chance Paterson appoints his old boss Eliot Spitzer? I saw that Congress is looking into what led the feds to uncover the former governor's dalliances. Spitzer could be New York's version of Don Siegelman -- a popular Democtratic governor ensnared by GOP dirty tricks. Remember - the victors write the history books.

Posted by: Patrick at November 26, 2008 7:51 AM

Never say never Patrick, but Spitzer was really unpopular. Especially up in Albany. And he is clearly a terrible Senator: if you can't compromise, work well with others, or realize you are not the senior senator from New York, you won't be effective.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 26, 2008 9:14 AM

You know the worst thing about Spitzer was the for a tiny amount of time I, and others, actually believed that here was somebody that was going to really take on all the corrupt politicans and special interests that are destroying this state. NYS basically is going to have to go bankrupt and fail before anything gets done.

BTW-he wasn't brought down by "Republican dirty tricks" he was brought down by his own illegal behavior. Behavior I might add that he prosecuted others for.

Posted by: dch at November 26, 2008 10:34 AM

Spitzer could be New York's version of Don Siegelman

Or Marion Barry. Three of a kind. But heck, Democrats rewrite history when they lose, too.

Daryl - If you follow the links, "takes the old salary" is how they have fixed this in the's a knotty question, because it seems like a ridiculous result to say that she can't take the job even at the old salary (it's not like this is a newly created job, having been in existence since 1789). Clearly, if she takes the job she can never accept the higher salary.

Posted by: Crank at November 26, 2008 10:37 AM

While I am not fan of Hillary nor do I think she will do a good job as SOS, if the salary was rolled back she should be able to take the job. I guess they could roll the salary back and then apply a "new" salary after her "term" as a Senator would have expired. No matter, it is chump change to the Clinton's anyway.

As for the vacant NY Senator position, who cares who it will be? It will be a liberal Democrat who is junior to Chuckie. They will have not power. BTW-Hillary did nothing for us upstaters so seeing her gone does not phase me at all. Chuckie and his junior partner will also do nothing to stop the mass exodus from NY. Our problems in NY are not something that can be solved by Washington; we need to solve it at the state level.

Did you know that NY was one of the states whose $'s back from the feds is less than the $s paid to the feds?

Posted by: Lee at November 26, 2008 11:20 AM

The mid term elections during a new president is usually not good for his party in congress. I would not be surprised if the Republicans running a Rudy or some CEO type could win the Hillary seat.

Posted by: dch at November 26, 2008 11:49 AM

Crank and dch,

Yes. Rudy. Good idea. He can concentrate his campaign on Florida again; it worked so well the first time.

Posted by: Magrooder at November 26, 2008 3:46 PM

Lee, I live in the NYC area, so we get more attention. More money going out of course, but still, I can see your point. And if you want real change, change we can believe in (could I resist that one?) then it has to happen in two areas:

1. Totally change the opaque way state business is conducted. The three headed hydra of governor, senate majority leader and legislative speaker in a cigar filled room filling in the blanks is no basis for a system of government (oops, there I go again, demanding a narco-syndidcalist commune).

2. Sheldon Silver is the prime problem. He really does think the Lady of the Lake gave him Excalibur. And we are the morons who believe that a strange woman lying in ponds, distribut.....sorry, the State is run like a Monty Python gag. We need Sir Philip Bleeding Sydney to come in and run them off.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 26, 2008 4:53 PM


No one party can fix NY. Both Democrats and Republicans have done a wonderful job of messing up this state. I agree Silver is problem and has to go.

By the way, us upstaters see most of our hard earned money going somewhere. We (of course) blame NYC; but how do we know? All we can tell is that we keep paying more taxes and get less for it.

Maybe we can just dump the whole Albany bunch and start over? We can't do any worse than we have got.

Posted by: Lee at November 26, 2008 5:14 PM

Darryl-for the first time I agree with you on something. Its an absolute disgrace here-Silver and Bruno both needed to be ousted and indicted a long time ago. I forget who replaced Bruno, but I am sure he is no better. Like I said above, I thought (hoped) for a little while that Spitzer would be up to the job. Yeah, he was an arrogant a-hole but you need to break eggs to make an omelet.

Magrooder-Rudy in recent polling is only a few points behind Patterson in the Governor's race-against an unknown quantity in 2 years, for the Senate seat, in a year that should be good for Republicans-he could win. Speaking for myself, I would rather be the Senator from NY working in DC, than the Governor located in Albany.

Posted by: dch at November 26, 2008 8:09 PM

dch, I see Rudy as another Spitzer. Well, Rudy came first, but both were arrogant prosecutors who did a worse job than the press said. Most of Rudy's high profile convictions were overturned, and Spitzer tried cases in the press since the law alone couldn't really back him. And neither plays well with others.

Rudy for governor is interesting, but since, as Lee and I agree (!), a breath of fresh air is really needed, we would just trade one group of secret keepers for another. And Lee, I've read in many places that NYC also gives more than it gets. So where has all the money gone anyway?

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at November 27, 2008 9:54 AM

I have heard that too but we upstaters also give more than we get. So (as you said) where does the money go?

Posted by: Lee at November 27, 2008 10:58 AM
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