New York needs a Senator.
Actually, if you listen to the politicians, it needs an Hispanic woman from somewhere north of the Bronx and west of Buffalo who can appeal to independents in the Adirondacks while still winning the boroughs. This ubermensch (or preferably womensch) must have what New Yorkers call "star" power, an asserted requirement in light of who she succeeds both immediately (Hillary Clinton) and historically (Bobby Kennedy). And she (or he, if we are still kidding ourselves) must also be able to raise gajillions of dollars, this the result of the specific need to run for election in both 2010 (to fill out the remainder of the Clinton term) and reelection in 2012 (because, unlike in Delaware, New Yorkers do not believe in caretakers).
This is a big decision for David Paterson, the state's current Democratic Governor.
For those of you who do not remember, and all you others who have chosen to forget, Paterson is the guy who replaced the state's prior Democratic Governor, Eliot Spitzer, who had to resign when his dating habits became public. Since then, running the show has been no can of beans. The state has no money, and it's biggest taxpayer is Wall Street, so right now it has no prospect of coming into money anytime soon. Consequently, Paterson has been running around the state explaining to anyone who will listen that cuts are coming. These audiences have praised him for his candor and marvelled at his performances (which are laced with funny asides and mind boggling budgetary detail, all committed to and delivered from memory because the Governor is more or less blind as a consequence of an early childhood disease). He is also asking Hank Paulson and Barack Obama for money, both of whom have promised to get back to him and are themselves working through a rather long list.
Now, David Paterson must find a Senator to replace Hillary Clinton.
In most places, this would be viewed as the rough political equivalent of being forced to play the fiddle while Rome burns. In other words, not such a big deal relative to what else is going on. Delaware has already picked Joe Biden's replacement, and Illinois is so overjoyed by Barack's ascension (and Chicago's place as the new western White House) that picking his Senate replacement appears to be a back pager at best.
But not here. In New York, finding a Senator is front page news. And so far, the mentionees include two Kennedys, one Cuomo, a County Executive, three Congresswomen . . .
I am not kidding.
A friend of mine on the Democratic National Committee (or "DNC" to the initiated) called me late one night a few weeks ago to ask whether I had seen the news that Hillary was slated to become Secretary of State. I had and said so. He had too. And was sitting in a bar in Washington talking to other political operatives, all of whom were out of work following the general election and desperately looking for something to do. So they decided to speculate on who David Paterson would appoint and -- being political consultants -- decided it would have to be someone who would otherwise primary Paterson for Governor. This narrowed the field appreciably, the consultants concluding that Andrew Cuomo would get the nod. Andrew, however, being Andrew, was not deemed particularly popular, and in any case, more drinks were being consumed. So the consultants decided that "anyone" who ran against Cuomo in a primary might beat him.
My friend then said he happened to know an "anyone."
In New York.
And that's how I made the list.
So I have been thinking seriously about this idea.
There are, of course, a number of negatives. I am not a woman, or Hispanic, or from upsate New York. I do not even speak Spanish. I do speak French but Quebec unfortunately is still part of Canada. I am an Irish Catholic male who lives in Westchester County, making me on the surface sound more or less like a Republican, which is a type that generally does not win a Democratic primary. Then, of course, my putative (and, I am instructed, desired) opponent, Andrew Cuomo, may not get the Paterson appointment. The women's groups in New York have been touting three Congresswomen. The Nassau County Executive was on the list because he too is interested in being Governor (but apparently not as interested as Andrew Cuomo, who the operatives say is "really" interested).
Caroline Kennedy is now a mentionee and Bobby Kennedy Jr. was until he took himself out of the running. For the record, I endorsed Barack months before Caroline. But no one came to my press conference. In fact, I didn't even hold one. This undoubtedly was bad planning on my part. But I wasn't a mentionee then. The Kennedys, of course, worry me, as they would any interested candidate. They are very good at producing two things.
Politicians . . .
RFK, Jr. is saying that if Caroline is appointed and runs, the state will see more Kennedys than it ever knew existed. And I believe him. At a book signing party for one of his sisters last year, his mother told me that she had "thirty two grandchildren, and one on the way." All those Kennedy kids have been producing their own... Kennedy kids.
Lots of surrogates.
But I have two advantages that could put me over the top. One is that, contrary to popular belief, this is not the first time I have been a US Senate mentionee. Back in 1994, fresh from having lost a Congressional primary by 27 points (which followed the loss of an earlier general election by 20 points), a supporter of one of my opponents said I "should run for the Senate." We were in a bar having a drink (I am seeing a pattern here). I thought she meant the state Senate and noted that there already was a Democrat running for that seat. She said, "No. You should run against D'Amato for the US Senate." I asked if I should do this with the "$40,000 I had been able to raise in the last primary, or the $150,000 I had raised in that losing general election."
She kept drinking.
But it was a mention.
The other advantage is more significant. Given the list of mentionees, I think I can get Senator Schumer's endorsement. Schumer, who in 1998 did beat D'Amato, has been overshadowed here in New York ever since Hillary showed up in 2000. And he doesn't like it. Having run the Senate election arm of the DNC for the last two cycles, helping measurably in the process to turn a minority into an almost supermajority, the rumor is that this time Chuck Schumer wants to make sure New York's junior Senator is someone whose star power won't dull his own forever shining bright light. Someone who finally will let him give up those Sunday morning press conferences. In other words, he wants New York's junior Senator to truly be . . . a junior Senator.
Which more or less eliminates everyone on the list.