Sunday, September 12, 2010

New York U.S. Senate Race-B

Race of the Day

New York U.S. Senate- B

September 12, 2010
51 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

As the only state to feature races for both U.S. Senate seats, this contest in New York is technically a Special Election. The winner will serve the remaining two years of the term won in 2006 by Hillary Rodham Clinton, who left the Senate to become the U.S. Secretary of State. The expensive nature of running a statewide campaign in New York and an immediate reelection effort may have persuaded several candidates from both parties to not enter the contest.

When Clinton resigned her Senate seat, New York's embattled Democrat Governor David Paterson was left with the task of selecting her replacement. While he did not quite get into the troubles that Illinois's Rod Blagojevich did with that responsibility, it was a bit of an ordeal nonetheless. For a while, it looked like Caroline Kennedy would receive the appointment, but Paterson ultimately selected Kirsten Gillibrand, a relatively young and new Congresswoman from upstate. Many speculated that Paterson believed that Gillibrand would best help balance the 2010 statewide ticket and thus help what was then a bid for a full term by the Governor. Several prominent Empire State Democrats, most from the New York City area, seemed to be perturbed by the selection of Gillibrand, and a few of them seemed to indicate they would challenge her in the party's primary. With the White House pledging support to the new incumbent though, and working behind the scenes to dissuade potential opponents, no serious primary challenger ever emerged. In the meantime, Gillibrand moved to the left on many issues, such as gun rights, in order to better endear herself to her party and likely to a more liberal statewide electorate than what her old Congressional district attained.

Gillibrand's luck in avoiding a serious primary race, also extended to the general election. Former Governor George Pataki and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were of course often mentioned as potential candidates for the office, but passed on any sort of political campaign this year. A host of other "B team" members of the New York GOP, including Congressman Peter King also decided not to take on Gillibrand, though her poll numbers showed potential vulnerability, with a lot of voters still unclear on what they think of her.

This Tuesday, will feature three Republicans facing off who did decide that the race was worth running. The primary seems to have a lot of undecided Republican voters and could go anyway at the end, but whomever emerges will have a very difficult task in matching the new incumbent in campaign cash or a state political structure. The New York State Republican Party has fallen on tough times and is looking at going 0-3 this year in the Senate races and the one for Governor, despite an anticipated strong GOP year nationwide, and potentially in some New York Congressional districts.

The most recent polls show a small lead in the primary for Republican Joe DioGuardi, who is also running under the Conservative Party banner. He had served in Congress for a couple of terms in the 1980s, before being defeated for reelection. Since that time, DioGuardi has made several failed comebacks to win back his House seat. These days, his name may be best associated with his daughter Kara, a noted songwriter,and recently dismissed American Idol judge. The name recognition may help him win the primary, in addition to the fact that having an Italian sounding surname could be beneficial as well in a GOP primary. Both of DioGuardi's Republican primary opponents happen to be Jewish. Bruce Blakeman served as a Port Authority Commissioner and was his party's candidate for Comptroller in 1998. Economist David Malpass has never run for office before, but his biography includes stints as a Congressional aide, Treasury Department official, and Wall Street Executive.

In venturing to spotlight this race, I encountered the responsibility of deciding who my crucial endorsement should go to. I would like to see the party nominate a candidate who will put up the strongest showing against Gillibrand, especially since she is currently struggling to get 50 percent of the vote in public polls. My sense is that DioGuardi is favored to win the primary (and will be on the ballot anyway on the Conservative line), but perhaps if the race were to really be focused on, one of his two opponents would have more growth potential. Looking at the campaign websites, Malpass's appears to be a bit more sophisticated, indicating that maybe he would be more willing to spend some of his own wealth on the race. He was also recently endorsed by Rudy Giuliani, which could be an important factor at this late stage of such a low profile race. So, I guess if I were a New York voter, I would vote for Malpass (who I just learned was Jewish). I do not really feel that strongly about it though. From my perch here in Illinois, I will be more concerned about Senate primaries in Delaware and New Hampshire on Tuesday.

Odds are that Gillibrand will win in November and do so pretty handily. She really has received a lot of breaks in the past year and a half, in being appointed to the U.S. Senate, and then seeing strong opponents from both parties fall by the wayside. Still, her polling numbers are nothing to write home about, considering the perceived weak nature of the opposition. Once the Republican primary ends, and if the party can unite, a lot of the undecided vote will rally to the GOP candidate and the race could look semi-competitive at that time.

Malpass campaign link (I genuinely feel like an undecided voter, which is pretty rare for me) :

2010 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 7 D, 17 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 47 D, 40 R