Monday, November 24, 2008

Musical Chairs

If, as expected, Hillary Clinton becomes secretary of state, the next question is: who will replace her as New York's junior senator?

The story is the same as that involving the replacement of Barack Obama and Joe Biden in their Senate seats. As is the case with Illinois and Delaware, New York has a Democratic governor, and a heavily Democratic electorate. So, neither the interim appointment by Governor David Paterson, nor the ensuing special election, is likely to change the partisan balance in the Senate.

This New York Times report is typical of the speculation so far. Governor Paterson says he has not delved very far into the process of choosing a successor. The name most often mentioned by the chattering classes is state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo, 50, has been New York attorney general since 2007. He was federal secretary of housing and urban development during Bill Clinton's second presidential term. His father, Mario Cuomo, was governor of New York from 1983 to 1995.

Several other New York State politicians have been named. Two names have been mentioned that are even more famous than that of Cuomo, and they both formerly called the White House home. One is Caroline Kennedy. And this Newsday report, acknowledging that this speculation is "for fun", suggests a variation on the long-time custom of naming a dead senator's widow as successor. That newspaper puts forth the name of Bill Clinton as a potential appointee!

As I noted above, all other things being equal, a Democratic candidate can expect to win a statewide election in New York. But the Times story to which I linked, hints at a possible major Republican push to win a 2010 special election. If, after large Democratic gains in 2006 and 2008, the electorate's mood shifts against that party in the 2010 mid-term elections, it could be a G.O.P. opportunity. As I wrote in this post, all bets may be off, when a special election is held.

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