Can't Anyone in This State Get Elected?

Now that New York Governor David Paterson has appointed Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, here’s a strange fact to consider:

There are six positions in New York State for which statewide elections are held: governor, lieutenant governor, the two U.S. senators, attorney general, and comptroller. But at the moment, only two of the six officeholders were actually elected to their positions.

1. Gov. Paterson was elevated to his position 10 months ago from lieutenant governor when the sitting governor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned in a call-girl scandal.

2. As for lieutenant governor: the website http://www.ny.gov/ltgov/still lists Paterson as that officeholder; there is actually no lieutenant governor at the moment.

3. Sen. Chuck Schumer was elected, and re-elected, to his seat.

4. Incoming Sen. Gillibrand, as noted above, was just appointed by the unelected (as governor) Paterson.

5. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo was elected.

6. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was appointed to his seat after the previous comptroller, Alan Hevesi, resigned just weeks after his own re-election because of a felony plea for having a state employee chauffeur Hevesi’s wife.

With so many opportunities for high-level appointments — well, you can fill in your own Blagojevich jokes here. Suffice it to say that the next time some cranky writer/economist guys wonder why people bother to vote, let’s recall that only 33 percent of New York State’s elected officials were actually elected.

Meanwhile, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin plans to introduce a constitutional amendment this week to stop governors from appointing U.S. Senators. I wonder which way Gillibrand will vote.


Thayer

I'd be more interested in how Roland Burris will vote on the Feingold amendment than how Gillibrand will vote (if it makes it that far, that is). Feingold's amendment has nothing more than coincidence to do with Gillibrand's appointment. It was 100% inspired by Blagojevich's hail-Mary appointment of Burris to BHO's vacant senate seat.

Ian

Assuming Gov. Patterson was elected to the position of Lieutenant Gov., it's a bit disingenuous to count him as an "unelected" elected official. Surely, when people were electing him to the Lieutenant Governorship, they were doing so because they wanted him to be the Governor in the event of the Governor no longer being able to hold the office.

Unless there's some other vital purpose for the Lieutenant Governor that I'm not aware of.

Kinglink

In a way you could say three out of the six, as Paterson while not elected Governor was elected Lieutenant Governor, a slightly different position that, say Gerald Ford was, where he became president with out ever winning a national election.

Still it's pretty shocking to see so much overturn.

JohnB

In New York, the lieutenabt governor is a place-holder. If Spitzer had wanted him, Mickey Mouse would have been nominated for the job..

Jonathan

In Australia we have bi-elections for empty seats (I am not sure that that is in all cases) Why does the US not do the same?

I note that two scandels were responsible for this. And fairly minor ones at that! I wonder if the public had to vote them out if these scandles would have been enough to do it?

frankenduf

kudos to Feingold- an 8 year old can figure out that the appointment system is corrupt and undemocratic

Julie

While some of these people may not have been elected in a state wide election, they were chosen by people who either were elected that way or will be in the near future.

Considering that Paterson has to answer to the state of NY in a few years, I am sure he wanted to pick someone the state of NY would want. So even though there was no election, the interests of NY'ers was taken into consideration.