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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

No politics for Paterson

Say what you will about Gov. David Paterson selecting Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill New York state's vacant seat in the U.S. Senate, but this much is certain: He wasn't thinking in terms of political gain for either himself or New York's Democratic Party.

If politics had been Paterson's main motivation, he would have picked state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Picking Cuomo would have benefited Paterson directly by eliminating a potential Democratic primary opponent to the governor in 2010. And it would have benefited the Democratic Party in New York because Cuomo would have been a safe bet to keep the Senate seat in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Instead, the governor hurt himself by leaving open the possibility of a Cuomo-Paterson gubernatorial primary in 2010 - a primary that Cuomo has a good chance of winning - and he hurt the state's Democratic Party by opening up Gillibrand's seat in New York's heavily Republican 20th Congressional District.

Gillibrand was able to win the 20th District seat in 2006 because of the nationwide swing toward Democratic congressional candidates that year and because her opponent, Republican incumbent John Sweeney, found himself embroiled in a couple of personal scandals right before the election. Put simply, Gillibrand was the right person in the right place at the right time.

And Gillibrand was re-elected fairly easily last year because, let's face it, members of the House generally have no trouble keeping their seats unless they've done something hideously wrong. (Just ask John Sweeney.)

But now, with no scandalized Republican incumbent or popular Democratic incumbent in place, the race is wide open. And given that registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by a roughly 2-1 margin in the 20th District - which stretches from Dutchess County to the Adirondacks - the chance of a Democrat winning the seat in the upcoming special election seems slim.

And then there's the issue of the Senate seat Gillibrand now holds. Firmly in Democratic hands for generations - before Clinton, the seat was held by such party stalwarts as Pat Moynihan and Bobby Kennedy - there's a real chance that a Republican, albeit a moderate one like Rudy Giuliani, could win the seat in the 2010 special election or the 2012 regular election because there already rumblings among Democrats in the state the Gillibrand is too much of a centrist or conservative to be considered a true Democrat. (The best-case scenario for Democrats may be Gillibrand losing a primary in 2010 to a fellow Democrat who then can win the subsequent election.)

No one can be sure how this will play out - this is, after all, the New York political arena, which has been nothing short of a circus in recent years - but it says here that the state's 20th Congressional District seat will be in Republican hands before the flowers bloom this spring, and, come Jan. 1, 2011, Gov. David Paterson and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand probably will have the word "former" before their titles.



Blogger Dionysus said...

I rather admired the way Gov. Paterson acted, more like a statesman than a politician. Rather than appointing someone for his own advantage, he seems to have chosen someone he thinks will do the best job for the people of NY.

I wish more of our elected representatives put the best interests of the people they represent before their own.

If we use Gillibrand's win in the 20th district as an indicator, it rather shows she has more than less political strength, as you know defeating an incumbent is not easy. It seems to me her congressional win indicates she may be more able to hold onto her senate seat than you can imagine against any challenger in 2010 or 2012.

We shall have to wait to see who wins the 20th district’s seat this spring. Given the changing times we are living in though, electing another democrat to that seat is not out of the realm of possibility.

Frankly I'm tired of the political circus our state operates out of, by chance we have Gov. Paterson in office who has acted for the people and not his own political advantage in this case, (how rare) it's to his credit, more of our leaders should act like Gov. Paterson and for the sake the people rather than for their political advantage.


January 26, 2009 at 10:34 AM 

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