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Paterson's Pick

Yesterday marked the start of the confirmation process that almost certainly will make New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton the next secretary of state. But it also marks the beginning of the end of the deliberations by Gov. David Paterson to name her replacement in the Senate.

We all know about Caroline Kennedy and her, you know, interest in succeeding Clinton. Despite her rocky few weeks, Kennedy is still under serious consideration very serious. But also getting a serious look is Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand. Despite her low standing in the latest Quinnipiac Poll (state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is tops with those surveyed), Gillibrand's a big blip on Paterson's radar screen.

Gillibrand is now serving her second term representing New York's 20th Congressional District (which stretches across 10 upstate counties, including Saratoga and Dutchess). She sits on the House Armed Services Committee and the Agriculture Committee. And she has made openness a hallmark of her tenure by putting her public schedule on the web most days and disclosing earmarks for her district that have accrued to its benefit. If Paterson selects Gillibrand, he gets a young upstater on a ticket currently dominated by downstate pols. But there are some downsides to choosing her.

Paterson would certainly tick off every other member of the New York congressional delegation who has toiled for years, if not decades, and feel they should be rewarded. Gillibrand's seat is not in a safe Dem district. She won her first race in 2006 by six points. I chalk up her 24-point trouncing of her Republican challenger in 2008 to the power of incumbency. Because her district trends Republican, state Democrats fear her seat would be ripe for the picking in 2010. They also fear
that Gillibrand couldn't hold the Senate seat in the 2010 special election, which she'd have to win to complete Clinton's term, or, if she got that far, in 2012, when she'd have to run for a full term.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, New York is one of the bluest of the blue states. But a well-financed downstate Republican challenger with decent name recognition (read, Long Island Rep. Pete King) could give the Democrats a scare, which could turn into their worst nightmare if President-elect Obama's economic recovery plan proves ineffective or the sacrifices he's asking Americans to make prove to be too much to bear and his popularity plummets.

Look, at the end of the day, Paterson will select someone who is best for the state -- and who is best for him as he seeks election to his own full term as governor in 2010. Gillibrand may be a fine person. I just don't see how having a little-known, two-term member of Congress boosts either of Paterson's considerations.

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 14, 2009; 1:49 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Next: My Beef With Burris

Comments

At the end of the day, Caroline will get the nod -- trust me.

Posted by: AZANNE | January 14, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Well, Gillibrand is very charismatic, she is a woman, and she is from upstate. The principal names in the mix these days are from the NYC metropolitan area, and several (Kennedy, Carolyn Maloney, effectively Cuomo) are Manhattanites. If Patterson, also a Manhattanite, wants to bolster his credibility upstate, this appointment is a good way to do it. Not saying it will happen, but giving an argument why it might.

Posted by: billmcg1 | January 14, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

He should name himself to the seat and step down as Govenor to steal the show from Roland Burris.

Posted by: ozpunk | January 14, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I live in NY state and based on the media coverage of Caroline Kennedy up here, I would say it is unlikely that Patterson will appoint her to the Senate.

Posted by: CNY-DC | January 14, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

As an Upstater a Downstate appointment to this seat will cost the Governor going forward. To appoint Ms Kennedy, who has not demonstrated an interest in either voting or Upstate NY, with the reasoning that her name can raise funds in 2010 is no different than the alleged actions of Gov Blagojevich except the payments are deferred rather than upfront.

Posted by: rook71 | January 14, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

It is ironic that the man who will appoint Kennedy is not an elected official himself. Kennedy does not deserve this seat. But if we can sell Senate seat in IL, and steal a seat in Minnesota, why shouldn't we be able to nominate a woman just because she has a famous name.

US Politics = SHAM

Posted by: DemocracyRules | January 14, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for writing this. I've been trying to get the media to write about Gillibrand for some time now.

She was also a partner in David Boies' law firm as well as being one of the top fundraisers for the House. Not to mention being the mother of two young children, a magna cum laude graduate of Dartmouth; a person who votes in all the elections and a clear speaker.

Posted by: VictoriaBalfour | January 14, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

IMO, if Patterson goes and appoints Kennedy, with all the negatives we here in NY feel towards this appointment, there will be a Republican senator and a Republican governor come the next election.

Posted by: kamdog | January 14, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

The comments about Ms. Gillibrand are interesting, but you failed to mention even as a first termer (just reelected) she managed to raise some $9 million in campaign money -- not many first termers can do that ... but it shows the power of the incumbent and of the insider special interests in DC and around Albany workign for her. But, I digress.

But, how about a VN Vet (wounded Vet at that?); a Vet who is also an educator (7-12 and Community College teacher, and Community College Administrator); plus former DOD civilian employee who worked over half of New York State with education degrees and was former Marine interrogator and Intelligence Ops Officer?

In this day and age, that should carry some weight, I'd think. I happen to know him, but his name is nowhere in sight ... why not?

HE IS NOT POLITICALLY CONNECTED and NOT AN INCUMBENT ... but would do a great job.

A certain NY Times reporter has interviewed him, but yet to do a story about him.

His blog is here http://www.right-left-center.blogspot.com/ -- enjoy. It's kinda like a bio, and it fits nicely here.

Posted by: eyepublius | January 14, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Patterson is governor of NY by accident. He has no standing really, not any more than Blago in Illinois, to appoint a Senator. Caroline Kennedy would be fine. Let's leave it at that.

Posted by: ravitchn | January 14, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

the writers reasons for not appointing Ms. Gillibrand are appalling. At issue is whether she can decently represent the state of New York until the next election. At that point the voters will speak. Contorted political strategy over whether she might be re-elected, or whether an R might some day win her house seat is irrelevant. The senate seat doesn't belong to the D's or to Blago... it belongs to the people of NY and if she can represent them until they have a change to vote on whom they want, fine---if she can't or won't---then her name should be off the list.

Posted by: robert23 | January 14, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

If there is to be scrutiny by the Senate then let's make it worthwhile. Kerry's rubber stamping of Hillary's nomination is appalling because it makes a mockery of the approval process.

It means that the Senate can pervert the approval process both ways: if it likes a candidate then it can rubber stamp their approval with smiles; but if it does not like a candidate or it wants a political advantage then it can obstruct a candidate and turn the process into an abusive circus.

Hillary was running on empty. She referred to 'smart power'. Well, having a good understanding of cliches and slogans does not impress me.

She had a stock answer about Iran and Israel: one is good and the other is bad.

The fact is she believes in the idea that America will impose its will on other nations (by using a combination of its resources). So far, it has shown that it makes one mistake after another in foreign affairs.

Her message was clear: the US tells other nations what they can and cannot do and if it suits US policy it will cause that other nation harm.

I do not see her as convincing or as worldly wise. I see her as another US bully who thinks that the US's agenda must reign supreme.

Why is it OK for the US to have nukes (1000s of them) but it is not OK for other nations to have one or two? Will Hillary set an example for Iran by promising to destroy the US nuclear arsenal or does she believe that no one tells the US what to do because the US is a sovereign nation.

Mr Obama, nothing has changed except the style: you sound brighter than Mr Bush.

The US is so arrogant that it dismisses those points of view that it does not share. One day it will wakeup and realise that other people around the world do not like the US telling them what they will or will not do and they will react against the US at its peril.

Posted by: robertjames1 | January 15, 2009 1:02 AM | Report abuse

The Village Voice has a damning piece about Kennedy this week. Basically, it appears that she has never worked at a job, and barely worked at the $1 a year"Job" for the NY Public Schools, where she never showed up at her office.
The worst part is her history of not voting in elections. Excerpt from the story:

Though she wrote in A Patriot's Handbook that "the day I feel most proud to be an American is not the Fourth of July, but Election Day," she's missed half of the elections since 1988. She even failed to vote in 1994 for her in-law Mario Cuomo, when at least four other Kennedys campaigned for Cuomo in the race of his life. She skipped the Democratic primary in 1989, when David Dinkins was the first black person nominated for mayor, and the general election in 2002, when Carl McCall was the first black person ever to appear on the statewide gubernatorial ballot as the candidate of a major party

Posted by: VictoriaBalfour | January 15, 2009 6:38 AM | Report abuse

I think Ms. Gillibrand would be a fine choice, though I won't pretend to know what the governor will do.

I can't figure out why national based bloggers and media people are so focused on NYC and its candidates.

I can love NYC (I do!) and still want representation in the senate by someone who has already shown commitment to the issues that affect me.

Ms. Gillibrand won in a tough district by fighting fair, and I do not doubt she can do the same thing in a state wide election.

And by the way, I live in NY state and never heard of the Republican Peter King who wants to run in 2010. Trust me, he won't win.

I don't put a lot of stock in the Congressional delegation whining about "toiling" for more years and a younger person being selected. Every member of that delegation knows its the governor's choice. And they know that all their candidates are downstate. All.

Kate in Albany

Posted by: kateinNY | January 15, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

P.S. Another word about the NY congressional delegation. They are not a whining bunch of people. Look back at the history and who stepped aside and backed Hillary Clinton when she chose to move to New York. A congresswoman helped smooth the way. Should our governor appoint Ms. Gillibrand, I am confident our congressional delegation won't whine. It's not their way.

Posted by: kateinNY | January 15, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Gillibrand is an attractive candidate: Good campaigner, fresh face, upstater, woman. Her relatively conservative policy positions could help her in a campaign against King, but they do risk backlash for Patterson and a primary challenge from the base.

Patterson is a hero for recognizing gay marriages from other states, but appointing a Senator who opposes them (as Gillibrand does, I believe) is risky post-prop8 and her outspoken opposition to gun control measures could cause a breach with Bloomberg that Patterson neither wants nor can necessarily afford.

She'll have my support if she gets the nod, but I think it may be less politically attractive than you believe.

Posted by: CormacNYC | January 15, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

One thing Gillibrand is known for is representing her constituents. When she is interviewed in local media, she virtually always frames responses in terms of what her constituents want.

Should she become senator, the whole state would be her constituents, and in many ways the whole country too. I'd expect to see some of her positions change.

I also would not mind if she had to face a primary in future years and I would be open to considering someone else. I would not hold any of that against the governor, and I don't think most New Yorkers would.

Posted by: kateinNY | January 15, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

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