Both national and local media have been reporting about the possibility of New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman seeking the Republican nomination for United States Senator from New York. If nominated, Zuckerman would run against the Democrat incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, provided she is able to prevail against a possible primary election challenge from former Congressman from Tennessee Harold Ford, Jr.
I know both Mort Zuckerman and Kirsten Gillibrand very well, having worked closely with both these individuals. I have enormous respect for both of them. It is my belief, however, that in a contest between these two individuals, Mort Zuckerman is likely to prevail. Given the number of Democrat U.S. Senate seats that are closely contested this November, it is quite possible that a Zuckerman victory in New York could be the decisive race that gives the GOP control of the United States Senate.
As Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of George W. Bush, I worked closely with the then member of the U.S. House of Representatives Kirsten Gillibrand after she scored an upset victory over John Sweeney in New York’s 20th Congressional District in the 2006 midterm elections. The highly publicized General Electric PCB Superfund site in Fort Edward, New York was located within her district, and this was the main issue on which we worked together.
I was not at all surprised by the appointment of Gillibrand by New York Governor David Paterson in January, 2009 to replace the then Senator Hillary Clinton after her appointment by President Obama as Secretary of State. In fact, I had previously predicted it on my Facebook page.
The media portrayal of Gillibrand as a policy and political lightweight is grossly unfair. I attribute this to liberal media bias against her, due to her past positive rating from the National Rifle Association.
Gillibrand was elected to Congress after a highly successful career as a lawyer with the nationally renowned Davis, Polk, and Wardwell law firm. She is an excellent policy analyst and a remarkably quick study on issues. Her political sagacity was demonstrated by the 62% reelection vote total she achieved in 2008 in her traditionally Republican district. She is personable and articulate, and I have absolutely no doubt that she will easily fend off the possible primary election challenge from Harold Ford.
Against anybody except former New York Governor George Pataki or Mort Zuckerman, Gillibrand would be highly likely to win reelection. Pataki, however, has apparently chosen not to run.
Mort Zuckerman would have a war chest that could easily dwarf that of Jon Corzine during his three statewide New Jersey campaigns. The Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans published in September, 2009 placed Zuckerman at number 236 with a net worth of $1.5 billion.
And I can tell you from my personal experience – Mort Zuckerman was born to be a United States Senator.
As Assistant Commissioner of the former New Jersey Department of Commerce and Economic Development during the first term of former Governor Christie Whitman, I was assigned by the then Commerce Commissioner Gualberto “Gil” Medina in 1994 the task of negotiating the deal with Zuckerman that brought the New York Daily News printing plant from Red Hook in Brooklyn to Jersey City. Gil Medina was the finest Commerce Commissioner and economic development leader in New Jersey history, and he was generous in giving me numerous opportunities to display my capabilities.
Mort was a tough negotiator but always upfront and diplomatic. He was also entertaining – he would constantly regale me with stories about famous people he had recently visited, from Fidel Castro to Bill Clinton. He even told me about famous women he had dated, without providing me with any embarrassing or intimate details! Mort’s engaging quality will be of great value to him during any campaign.
My telephone conversations with Zuckerman took place on a daily and often nightly basis during the negotiations. He had an uncanny grasp of both the big picture and the details of the transaction. After the negotiation was successfully completed, to the benefit of both the Daily News and the State of New Jersey, I understood very well the qualities that have made Mort Zuckerman one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs.
Over the past sixteen years since the Daily News negotiation, I have seen numerous examples of Mort’s unsurpassed people skills and policy insight. As Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Zuckerman’s diplomatic skills were invaluable in both forging consensus among major American Jewish organizations and maintaining excellent relations with the Bush White House and Congress.
As an habitual viewer of the television show, The McLaughlin Group, I have watched Mort Zuckerman display an encyclopaedic comprehension of virtually every major American domestic and foreign policy issue. He forecast earlier than virtually everybody else the financial collapse that occurred in September, 2008. His intellect, political sagacity, and unlimited campaign financial resources will make him a winner over Senator Gillibrand.
I don’t know if Mort Zuckerman will run. If he does, get ready to address him as Senator Mortimer B. Zuckerman.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and seven federally recognized Indian nations. He currently serves as Public Servant in Residence at Monmouth University.