THE BEST A NEW YORK DEMOCRAT COULD DO? REALLY?
Yes, this summary of the next New York senator's voting record is disheartening:
... [Kirsten] Gillibrand has described her own voting record as "one of the most conservative in the state." She opposes any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, supports renewing the Bush tax cuts for individuals earning up to $1 million annually, and voted for the Bush-backed FISA bill that permits wiretapping of international calls. She was one of four Democratic freshmen in the country, and the only Democrat in the New York delegation, to vote for the Bush administration's bill to extend funding for the Iraq war shortly after she entered congress in 2007. While she now contends that she's always opposed the war and has voted for bills to end it, one upstate paper reported when she first ran for the seat: "She said she supports the war in Iraq." In addition to her vote to extend funding, she also missed a key vote to override a Bush veto of a Democratic bill with Iraq timetables....
There are some compensations -- EMILY's List recounted a few in 2007, emphasizing hot-button issues of the time: Gillibrand was pro-withdrawal on Iraq and favored greater funding of body armor for troops; she also co-sponsored the bill to increase the minimum wage. In addition, she's pro-choice and pro-alternative energy.
But she is a proud Blue Dog Democrat -- a deficit hawk. Before she was chosen, I would have liked to know: Does she still prioritize fiscal restraint at a moment when we need to do some very serious spending to stave off economic catastrophe?
I think Governor Paterson is fighting the last war. In the old days, yes, the votes of a winning Democrat in this state would be very much concentrated in New York City; as recently as a generation ago -- the heyday of Long Island's Al D'Amato -- it was difficult for a Democrat to win votes even in the adjoining suburbs, and a real struggle upstate.
But look at the 2008 New York map for Obama vs. McCain:
The commuter corridors north and east of the city are almost solidly Democratic, and as for upstate, look at all that blue! To pick just one issue, do you really need an NRA favorite to win votes upstate, just because a lot of people hunt there? No -- Obama made serious inroads upstate even though he was widely portrayed in the firearms community as a gun-grabber.
I even question the notion that you have to pick an upstater to fend off a Republican Senate challenge from, say, Rudy Giuliani or a re-Republicanized Mike Bloomberg. It seems to me it could actually be lose-lose for the Democrats: Rudy or Bloomie would run under the Republican banner in more Republican-leaning upstate areas -- but could also run as friendly, familiar, popular locals in the city ... and as pols who are actually to Gillibrand's left on certain issues (gun control, gay marriage) Even the most likely GOP candidate, Peter King, is to Gillibrand's left on guns.
Governor Paterson is a second-generation Democratic pol. He's protecting the party from an enemy that used to be a lot stronger than it is.