The Senator From New York

December 20th, 2008

New York Governor David A. Paterson has a difficult decision to make.  He has to decide who will replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate when she moves over to the Executive Branch to become Secretary of State.  The person he selects will serve as a Senator for almost two years, when a special election will be held in November 2010.  Given the power of incumbency, that person will have a significant edge in retaining the seat, even if facing powerful opponents.

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of assassinated President John F. Kennedy and relative to a busload of other politicians, has made it clear she wants Hillary’s seat in the Senate.  However, some New Yorkers have their doubts.  At the head of that list is Andrew Cuomo, currently New York’s Attorney General.  And to make the situation truly weird, there’s been talk that Paterson might replace Hillary with–hold your breath–Bill Clinton.  Thankfully, that last possibility doesn’t seem serious.

Caroline Kennedy has no political experience, aside from genetic inheritance.  She also has no apparent substantive experience. 

Andrew Cuomo was very active politically with his father, former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, served as HUD Secretary in Clinton’s cabinet, and has done well since being elected Attorney General.  He has also been an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan and a partner in a New York City law firm.  (And, by the way, he’s also Caroline’s ex-cousin-in-law.)

Bill, who apparently isn’t being seriously considered, probably wouldn’t take the job anyway.  It’s doubtful that he would sacrifice the huge cash haul he’s been getting from assorted Arab potentates.  He’s going to have enough trouble staying on his knees with the Arabs when Hillary becomes SecState, and he doesn’t need this additional complication.

Why would anyone who isn’t a citizen of New York care about this?  Good question.  Paterson will pick a Democrat, whoever it is, and it won’t make much difference in the overall make-up of the Senate.  Beyond that, it’s already a seat carpetbagged by Hillary, who had few substantive qualifications for the job.  If New Yorkers are willing to keep giving that Senate seat away, then I guess the rest of us should just keep quiet.

But, I can’t resist injecting an outsider’s opinion.  First, we’re not supposed to have an aristocracy, and no one should be entitled to a seat in the Senate by virtue of birth.  Second, standing for election previously and winning, developing substantive skills during long years of public service, and building a good record of accomplishment should count for something.  If Governor Paterson agrees, then he has no choice but to appoint Cuomo.

(This has been covered widely in the press.  Examples are here, here, and here.)

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