That David Paterson would take his time in picking Hillary Clinton’s Senate successor is understandable. It’s a significant decision that will affect the state and country on important policy matters and that will have ramifications for the political pecking order in New York.
But from his own political standpoint, there’s really no way for him to get this one wrong.
Senate appointments aren’t that uncommon. Since the 17th Amendment, which mandates the popular election of U.S. senators, was enacted in 1913, 140 Senate vacancies have been filled via gubernatorial appointment, a number that will rise by three once the current openings in New York, Illinois and Delaware are officially filled. Many of these appointees (like, for instance, Minnesota’s Dean Barkley in late 2002) only served for a few weeks or months, but others (like former majority leader George Mitchell) went on to long and decorated careers in the upper chamber.
Popular or not, though, these appointed senators generally have had one thing in common: they haven’t had much of an impact, positive or negative, on the political fortunes of the governor who appointed them.
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