Friday, January 23, 2009

Gilli -- WHO?

Despite some misgivings about Caroline Kennedy it appeared all but certain she was going to be appointed to fill the Senate seat left vacant when Hillary Clinton was confirmed as President Obama's Secretary of State.

After Caroline Kennedy suddenly dropped her bid to be Clinton's seat filler (it now appears because of an alleged "nanny problem" instead of what she originally claimed, to be near her still frail uncle Sen. Edward Kennedy -- although of course Ms Kennedy denies there is any such problem and for now I'm prepared to take her word), NYS governor David Paterson has made a rather surprising appointment -- Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand. She represents New York 20, a quite sprawling district which stretches from the northern 'burbs of NYC through the Catskills and much the Adirondacks. Pretty much the bulk of the Hudson Valley.

She's certainly a resilient woman, refusing to take maternity leave when she was pregnant and committing to her duties as a Representative full time right up until she went into labour and getting right back to work soon after the birth. But she is also a favourite daughter of the NRA. NY20, being a mostly rural district, is also quite conservative and very adverse to gun control -- and that part of the world is a hunter's and fisher's paradise and reliant on tourism derived from that.

According to the NYT, Gillibrand's pro-gun pedigree (a continuation of the long time struggle that pits upstate and downstate NY against each other) could put Gillibrand in the sights (no pun intended) of a woman whose husband was murdered in the Long Island Massacre in 1993 and who won her seat on the issue of tightening gun regulations. Carolyn McCarthy has vowed to challenge Gillibrand for the Dem nomination for the by-election which will be held in 2010. (Again, that sucks -- I know NYS has budget problems but can't they afford to have a by-election in 90 days?)

Choosing Gilibrand is a calculated choice on Paterson's part. In these tough times he needs the state to remain united (to the extent that's possible) and by appeasing the pro-gun right-wing of the Democratic Party he may bolster his up ticket prospects in next year's election when he plans to run for re-election. Traditionally, the idea has been to have one Senator from upstate and one from down and after a very long long time of two bozos from NY Metro that balance may be restored.

I just don't know enough about Gillibrand to make a judgment about her -- on NYS issues, when I do read up on them, I mostly follow what goes on in Buffalo and NYC -- but the three most dangerous letters in America are N, R, A. They're still a very powerful force in American politics, and last time I checked even Michael Moore was still a card-carrying member.

My message to Ms Kennedy: If you're serious about wanting to succeed your Uncle Bobby, then run in the by-election to fill Gillibrand's now vacant seat. Prove you care about rural issues in NYS as much as urban ones, and then use that as a platform to make a Senate run next year. Otherwise, stop pretending you're entitled to be the "heir" to the Kennedy political dynasty.

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