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New York Governor Highlights the Dismal Record of Senate Appointments

Yesterday we wondered how the Blagojevich Affair would influence other politicians who need to fill vacant seats in the Senate or elsewhere. (BTW, the procedure for filling a vacant Senate seat varies state-by-state; here’s a related article.) We particularly wondered how New York Governor David Paterson would approach the task of replacing Hillary Clinton, now that the eyes of the world (though hopefully not the F.B.I.) are on him.

Interestingly, Azi Paybarah of the New York Observer put that very question to Paterson:

He said it made him “more resolved” to find someone based on “merit” and to pick someone who can win in 2010.

But then it gets really interesting. Paterson kept talking and displayed why he is fast gaining a reputation as a governor who’s not only forthright and smart, but refreshingly analytical:

Interestingly enough, I was reading that there have been, there have been, I think in the last century, over 80 times when governors have had to appoint senators. And since 1960, there have been 48. Of the 48, 10 have just decided to serve out the term and not run for election. Of the 38 that ran for election, only 18 won. So, less than half actually won. So, as I think about that, because of the precious nature of seniority in Washington, I’m hoping that a candidate that I select would win in 2010. Because what’s very key in the U.S. Senate, and what the U.S. senators that I’ve spoken to have apprised me, is that seniority is very important.

I believe the going rate for re-election of sitting U.S. senators is about 90 percent. So, if Paterson’s reading of history is correct, a less-than-50 percent re-election rate for this subset of incumbents would seem to be a pretty good indication that they were pretty unimpressive. By announcing this fact, Paterson may have just made his own task a bit harder, but he sounds wise enough to handle it.

(Hat tip: Etan Bednarsh)