WASHINGTON — Veteran Congresswoman Nita Lowey won’t replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in Congress, but there are plenty of other New Yorkers who will spend the holiday season hoping for the ultimate political gift: a free two-year stint in the U.S. Senate.
Lowey said in an interview with The Associated Press Monday that she will remain in the House. The decision still leaves a dozen or more politicians vying for the favor of Gov. David Paterson, who will appoint Clinton’s successor.
The 71-year-old Lowey said she isn’t interested in giving up her hard-earned seniority in the House Appropriations Committee — a position which happens to give her a great deal of say over the budget of the State Department that Clinton may soon lead.
“Even though it’s a great honor to be considered, for me, it makes more sense and I can accomplish more for my district, the state, and the country, if I stay in the House of Representatives,” Lowey said in a phone interview with The AP.
Clinton “would be an outstanding secretary of state and frankly in my position as the chair of the subcommittee that funds the Department of State and all foreign aid, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her in the future,” Lowey said.
Lowey had been expected to seek the Senate seat back in 2000, but stepped aside for Clinton, then the first lady.
The jockeying to replace Clinton in the Senate began well before President-elect Barack Obama’s official announcement Monday; Gov. Paterson’s decision not to make a decision on a successor until January likely means a frenetic holiday season for New York politicians.
“You can ask me this question a million times, I’m not getting into who the candidates are, what do I think of them,” the governor said at a press conference.
Among those mentioned are New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and a laundry list of representatives in Congress.
Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand and Brian Higgins would satisfy those seeking someone from upstate New York. New York City contenders include Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez. Rep. Steve Israel and county executive Tom Suozzi would presumably strengthen the Democratic state ticket in their vote-rich home turf of Long Island.
Then there are the long shots: environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., his cousin Caroline Kennedy and even Bill Clinton. But Clinton’s spokesman Matt McKenna said he won’t succeed his wife in the Senate, calling the notion “completely false.”
Whoever is chosen will have to campaign in a special election in 2010, at the same time Paterson and New York’s senior senator Charles Schumer are on the ballot. The seat would then come up for election again in 2012, when Clinton’s current term would have expired.
“I do think it should be a woman,” said Maloney, who called Obama’s selection of Clinton “brilliant,” and suggested Paterson look for a similar record of competence in “someone who will work their heart out in a very challenging time for the state.”
Gillibrand said she thinks Paterson will seek “a good partner for Sen. Schumer to balance all of the state’s interests” at a time when the national and state economy is in tough shape.
Brown said he was “very honored” to be mentioned as someone under consideration by Paterson, his old colleague from the state Senate.
The governor “is someone that really intensely does his homework before he makes his decision,” Brown said, adding that if the governor called him on the phone to talk about the senate seat, “I would definitely listen.”
Whoever Paterson picks, he is almost certain to disappoint at least one key New York constituency, whether it’s upstate voters, women or Hispanic voters.
And with Clinton remaining in office until she is confirmed as Secretary of State, all of those groups will have plenty of time to beg or bluster on behalf of their favored candidate.
Paterson doesn’t lose much by waiting, except possibly some peace and quiet over the holidays.
An early resignation and appointment doesn’t affect the U.S. Senate’s all-important seniority rankings when it comes to committee assignments. Senate Democratic Secretary Lula Davis said that even if a replacement was picked and sworn in next week, that person would be considered no more senior than any of the newly-elected senators coming to Congress in January. An early selection would, however, have given the replacement seniority in picking office space.
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