The immediate political beneficiaries in New York of the Scott Brown romp over Martha Coakley are Rick Lazio and Harold Ford, Jr.
Last fall we in New York saw precursors to the Brown win over Coakley in Massachusetts: incumbent Democratic county executives (arguably doing a decent job) were ousted in Westchester (Andy Spano) and in Nassau (Tom Suozzi). In neighboring New Jersey Chris Christie defeated Rob Corzine for governor. What are the implications of the Brown win over Coakley for the statewide races coming up in New York for 2010?
Governor: While Governor David Paterson's poll numbers have risen slightly -- almost no one believes today that his aspiration for winning a full term in his own right will be realized. The probable scenario -- likely to accelerate now with the Brown win in Massachusetts, will be for Governor Paterson to announce in February or early March that in lieu of spending time fundraising and running that he will instead opt out and spend the next year focusing on the cataclysmic state budget and economy. This will pave the way for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to ascend to the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Cuomo will likely attempt to re-run the Eliot Spitzer campaign of 2006 -- relying on his AG bona fides, name recognition, and nostalgia for his father, Mario. The leading GOP candidate right now is former Congressman Rick Lazio, who will endeavor to copy the Scott Brown playbook -- and attempt to separate the man from the myth. Lazio will have things to say about Cuomo's reign as HUD secretary during the Clinton administration. Lazio sat on the House Banking Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity -- which oversaw some of the programs run by Cuomo at the time. Moreover, Andrew Cuomo is not Eliot Spitzer (and I mean the 2006 pre-scandal version), and Rick Lazio will have much broader appeal statewide than the 2006 GOP candidate, John Faso. Lazio is a fiscal conservative and a social moderate -- the right (and only) recipe for a successful GOP stateside candidate in New York (ala George Pataki). And Lazio has substantially better name recognition in New York today than Scott Brown did in Massachusetts two weeks ago (and George Pataki in January 2006). Lazio is personable and affable (like Scott Brown). Lazio has been racking up local endorsements -- most recently from the Nassau County GOP. And I love Lazio's proposal to convene a state constitutional convention to dissolve the two houses of the state legislature and replace them with a unicameral legislative body. If Lazio is the GOP candidate and could inflict some doubt and damage onto the Cuomo inevitability machine -- he could conceivably be the next governor.
US Senator: while Chuck Schumer and the Obama administration cleared the decks of most of the stronger primary opponent possibilities against Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, doubts about her viability still exist - and it's looking more and more like former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., may actually take on the mission of a primary challenge. Conventional wisdom says that the only viable primary challenge to Gillibrand would be from the left -- given her prior, pro-gun, blue dog record representing a congressional district in rural upstate New York. While fringe candidate John Tasini is mounting a primary challenge from the far left, recent New York transplant Harold Ford, Jr., has taken a leave from his Merrill Lynch gig and is strongly considering a run. Gillibrand is already branding Ford as an extreme conservative -- but her criticism of Ford rings hollow coming from the former Blue Dog. Ford’s pro-choice credentials will probably be his toughest sell in New York – he has been for parent notification and opposed to partial birth abortions. Both Gillibrand and Ford had to modulate their positions on issues to satisfy their more parochial constituencies in upstate New York and Tennessee respectively. While Ford's introduction to the New York chattering class was a somewhat inartful interview in the New York Times, Ford is no Caroline Kennedy. He's an experienced, articulate, smart pol with the potential to go toe to toe with Gillibrand in the fundraising department. If the political climate continues to sour for Democrats nationally -- and in New York specifically -- Ford would be the stronger Democratic candidate against a Republican such as Bruce Blakeman or George Pataki in that Ford could more plausibly run as an outside, anti-establishment candidate.
Speaking of Republicans, the lack of a marquis GOP candidate for the Gillibrand seat at this point in the cycle is puzzling. The decliners so far include Rudy Giuliani, Long Island Congressman Peter King, and Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld. Former Governor George Pataki has not officially declined but all indications point to him opting out and making a full time run for the White House in 2012. So far that leaves as the only announced GOP candidate, Bruce Blakeman, a former Nassau County legislator, Port Authority board member, former candidate for State Comptroller and brief candidate for New York City Mayor. He's recently been noted because his ex, Nancy Shevell is dating Paul McCartney. If the Democrats stay with Kirstin Gillibrand, and runs as the establishment/favorite/incumbent -- Blakeman could gain traction.
Senator Schumer's seat is up in 2010 as well -- but no one seriously sees him at risk.
David A. Singer is a former political consultant/campaign professional and political junkie currently toiling as a lawyer in Westchester and managing real estate and media investments.