New York — In New York State, two Democratic senate seats are up for grabs in 2010. One, occupied by Sen. Charles Schumer, is considered completely safe. The other, currently held by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, is not.
Kirsten Gillibrand an Appointed Senator
In 2009, New York State Gov. David Paterson appointed Gillibrand to her seat as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s replacement. The appointment was viewed with dismay by some. She was called a “centrist” and a “blue dog Democrat,” and worse, she bore the NRA seal of approval. Gillibrand was not exactly a liberal darling.
The appointment was, however, temporary. In order to keep her senatorial seat through 2013, Kirsten Gillibrand must be re-elected to the position in November, 2010. And in order to run, she must first be nominated in the New York State Democratic primary. But for that, she might just be a shoo-in, because it seems that nobody wants to oppose her.
Kirsten Gillibrand’s Low Approval Rating
Gillibrand’s approval rating remains alarmingly low. A Marist Poll taken May 11 shows that 27 percent of New York voters rate her performance as either “good” or “excellent,” while a full 51 percent find it to be only “fair” or “poor.”
Rival Contenders Few and Far Between
Yet in spite of Gillibrand’s low approval rating, several potential contenders for the Democratic nomination have already dropped out. Early possibilities, such as Congressman Steve Israel and Congresswomen Carolyn McCarthy and Carolyn Maloney, have long since fallen by the wayside, and they were only the first. The most recent to concede is labor activist Jonathan Tasini, who officially threw in the towel on May 12, claiming an inability to raise the funds needed to continue his campaign.
New York Democrats Discourage Harold Ford
As reported in the Jan. 7 issue of The New York Times, former Tennessee Representative Harold E. Ford, Jr.’s decision to enter the race sent New York Democrats into overdrive. Sen. Chuck Schumer personally met with Ford to ask him to reconsider, and in an apparent bow to political pressure, Ford decided in late February to relinquish his bid for the nomination.
The official reason given by Ford was the concern that a hard-fought primary campaign would leave its winner financially drained, and therefore vulnerable to a loss in November. In a March 1 opinion piece for The New York Times, Ford stated: “I refuse to do anything that would help Republicans win a Senate seat in New York, and give the Senate majority to the Republicans.”
Democrats Discouraging Challenges?
Democratic leaders, apparently fearing that no other candidate would have Gillibrand’s odds of beating a Republican opponent, seem inclined to discourage any and all future challenges to Gillibrand’s campaign. With former Republican Gov. George Pataki no longer a factor, recent polls predict Gillibrand a winner by about 50 percent over each of the top three remaining potential Republican contenders. Here are the results of those polls:
Marist Poll: Gillibrand vs. Bruce Blakeman, 52% to 28% (20% undecided)
Marist Poll: Gillibrand vs. Joseph DioGuardi: 50% to 30% (20 % undecided)
Marist Poll: Gillibrand vs. David Malpass: 52% to 28% (20% undecided)
Democrats Need to Hold That Senate Seat
It goes without saying that a loss of the Senate majority would be ruinous to the Democrats’ agenda in Washington. Since a Gillibrand candidacy appears to be their best chance to hold on to that all-important seat, it’s conceivable that Kirsten Gillibrand will now run virtually unchallenged in the 2010 New York State Democratic Senate Primary.
Robert Dougherty, “Blue Dog Democrats in Spotlight with Gillibrand Appointment”, Associated Content
Liz Benjamin, “Tasini Gives Up on Gillibrand, Sets Sights on Rangel”, Capital Tonight
Bruce Drake, “New York’s Gillibrand: Low Approval Rating, But No Strong Rivals for Senate”, Politics Daily
Michael Howard Saul, “Pataki Isn’t Joining New York Senate Race”, The Wall Street Journal
Michael Barbaro and Raymond Hernandez, “Potential Ford Senate Bid Sets Off Scramble”, The New York Times
Michael Barbaro, “Ford Decides Not to Run for Senate Seat” New York Times
Harold Ford, Jr., “Why I’m Not Running for the Senate”, New York Times