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The 2010 United States Senate special election in New York is scheduled to take place on November 2, 2010, concurrently with other elections to the United States Senate in other states as well as elections to the United States House of Representatives and various state and local elections. Governor David Paterson has appointed Kirsten Gillibrand to serve as United States Senator from New York until the 2010 special election, replacing former Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who resigned to serve as Secretary of State in the Barack Obama administration.

The winner of the special election will complete the term that will end in January 2013. The seat will then be up for election to a full six-year term with an election to take place in November 2012.

The special election will take place concurrently with the regular election for the other U.S. Senate seat in New York, in which incumbent Democrat Charles Schumer is expected to seek re-election. It will also take place at the same time as the 2010 New York gubernatorial election.

Contents

Appointment history prior to 2010 election

Background

The history of appointment speculation for the seat goes back to 2007, when Clinton was the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential election and thus would resign her senate seat if she won the presidency.[1][2] As envisioned then, Eliot Spitzer would have been making the appointment, and David Paterson, then Lieutenant Governor of New York, was considered the "friendly, safe and politically expedient choice" to be appointed senator.[2] But a variety of other choices were also considered possible.[2]

Once Clinton lost her nomination battle to Barack Obama, the appointment speculation went away, but it resumed as soon as it became apparent President-elect Obama was interested in nominating Clinton for Secretary of State. Clinton did not plan on resigning until she was confirmed by the Senate,[3] and Paterson, who had by then succeeded to the Governorship following Spitzer's resignation, stated he would not announce a selection until she did formally resign,[3] but speculation and political activity began immediately.

Potential candidates

During the appointment process, a wide range of public figures were reportedly interested in or considered by Governor Paterson for Clinton's seat, including:

Speculation

An early favorite for selection was New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who in the late 1990s had been planning a run for the United States Senate election in New York, 2000, but had stepped aside once then-First Lady of the United States Clinton had decided to run for the office.[10] But soon Lowey withdrew from consideration, as in the intervening years she had gained enough seniority to become one of the powerful "cardinals" on the House Appropriations Committee and did not want to relinquish that position.[11] Another who withdrew from consideration was New York Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.[17]

Senator Schumer did not publicly indicate a preference,[4] but reportedly favored Congresswoman Gillibrand.[5]

The indication by Caroline Kennedy that she was possibly interested in being appointed drew the most media attention.[5] Her family legacy (including that her uncle Robert F. Kennedy had previously held the seat) and star power was balanced against her inexperience in politics and elections.[5] Her uncle Senator Ted Kennedy, in a battle with brain cancer, encouraged her to seek the position.[19] On December 15, Kennedy indicated that she was definitely seeking the appointment, making phone calls to Paterson and other prominent Democrats.[19] Kennedy and her uncle had backed Obama over Clinton at a crucial time in the long presidential nomination struggle, and some past Clinton supporters initially disparaged Kennedy's qualifications for the senate seat.[20] But soon Clinton told her supporters not to stand in the way of a Kennedy selection;[20] Clinton said she herself would have no public comments on any of the possible choices.[21]

Public opinion polls showed that Kennedy and Cuomo were the two most popular choices of New York residents, with their large name recognition factors playing a role.[5] Paterson faced a complex set of factors in making the choice. Women's groups were pressuring him to replace Clinton with another woman,[4] while upstate groups were dissatisfied at their lack of representation in top-level statewide offices. Paterson's own gubernatorial re-election campaign could benefit from a Democratic star such as Kennedy in the senate race, which would help him raise money and increase voter enthusiasm, while the choice of Kennedy would also bolster his relations with the Obama administration.[4] Whatever candidate is chosen would be faced with likely having to raise $35 million for the 2010 special election and then, if victorious, another $35 million for the 2012 regular election two years later.[9]

By later in December, Kennedy had mounted a concerted effort to gain support around the state, and had made several trips and appearances as well. Kennedy's appointment was supported by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter,[22] State Assemblyman Vito Lopez,[23] New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg,[24] former New York City Mayor Ed Koch[25] and the New York Post editorial page.[26] She received criticism for not voting in a number of Democratic primaries and general elections since registering in 1988 in New York City[23] and also for not providing details about her political views.[25] Kennedy declined to make disclosures of her financial dealings or other personal matters, stating that she would not release the information publicly unless she was selected by Paterson, at which time she would be subject to the same background checks as all appointees.[27] Kennedy acknowledged that she was going to have to prove herself: "Going into politics is something people have asked me about forever. When this opportunity came along, which was sort of unexpected, I thought, `Well, maybe now. How about now?' [I'll have to] work twice as hard as anybody else ... I am an unconventional choice ... We're starting to see there are many ways into public life and public service."[28]

The apparent effort by Kennedy forces to make her appear the "inevitable" choice drew reports of resistance among Democratic officials, including Paterson himself.[29] Kennedy has said she will not run for the seat in 2010 if she is not appointed by Paterson.[30] In late December 2008, Kennedy drew criticism from several media outlets for lacking clarity in interviews, and for using the phrase "you know" 168 times during a 30 minute interview with NY1.[31] At one point, there was speculation among Democratic Party officials that Paterson would make a caretaker appointment, meaning someone who would pledge to only serve the two years and not run in 2010.[32] This would allow Paterson to avoid choosing among competing choices and give them a level playing field two years hence.[32] Speculation even focused on former President Bill Clinton as the caretaker,[32] but on New Year's Day Paterson seemed to indicate he was not inclined towards the idea: "In the United States Senate, the most effective senators are the ones that have seniority."[33]

By early January 2009, Kennedy's support had dropped in public opinion polls, with 44 percent of New Yorkers saying they had a lesser impression of her since she began her campaign for the appointment, versus 23 percent having a better impression.[34] A mid-January Quinnipiac University poll showed Cuomo 7 percentage points ahead of Kennedy in voter preference, and more voters than not thinking Kennedy was unqualified for the position.[35] Paterson made all interested candidates submit lengthy vetting documents as part of their candidacy.[15] An official of the League of Women Voters criticized Paterson for not making the vetting questions public.[15] Paterson said he would announce his decision shortly after the Obama inauguration.[36]

On January 22, 2009, after several conflicting reports,[18] Kennedy released a statement withdrawing from consideration for the seat, citing personal reasons.[37] The following day, further conflicting reports ensued over what the specific reason was for Kennedy's withdrawal, and whether or not Paterson would have picked her had she stayed in.[38] Some of the reports were based on Paterson's office planting false stories with the press that Kennedy had serious problems with the hiring of a nanny or unpaid taxes.[39][40]

Polling

Poll Source Dates Administered Caroline Kennedy Andrew Cuomo Steve Israel Thomas Suozzi Carolyn Maloney Kirsten Gillibrand
Marist January 12-14, 2009 25% 40% 5% 6% 5% 3%
Research 2000 31% 26% 2% -- -- --
Quinnipiac January 8-12, 2009 24% 31% 2% -- 6% 5%
Public Policy Polling January 3-4, 2009 27% 58% -- -- -- --

Appointment

On the same day that Kennedy dropped out, WPIX-TV and the Albany Times Union reported that Governor Paterson was expected to announce he was appointing Kirsten Gillibrand.[41] The Governor made the official announcement of Gillibrand's appointment at a press conference in Albany on January 23, 2009.[42]

By a month later, Paterson had conceded that his office had been responsible for leaks at the end of the appointment process, intended to contest the Kennedy camp's claim that she had been his first choice for the position.[40] Paterson said, however, that he had not expected the level of attacks that ensued from his office at the time: “The things said about Caroline I found despicable and shocking and very painful. I never would have imagined removing the idea that this is my first choice meant a character assassination.”[40]

Democratic primary

Background

Paterson's appointment of Gillibrand alienated Caroline Kennedy and Andrew Cuomo supporters as well as some key liberal Democratic ideological constituencies, and made it possible that the centrist Gillibrand would face a primary challenge in 2010.[43] She did not have the full backing of the New York congressional delegation either, and one state Democratic operative said, "I think she's going to get a serious primary in 2010."[44]

Carolyn McCarthy, formerly a colleague of Gillibrand's in the New York delegation to the United States House of Representatives, said that if Gillibrand was appointed, she would mount a primary campaign against her in 2010 if no other candidate who favored stricter gun control laws did so.[45] McCarthy is known as a staunch advocate of gun control laws, after her husband was murdered in a 1993 commuter train shooting spree, while Gillibrand has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association.[46][47] Gillibrand has also served as a lawyer for Philip Morris, Inc.[48]

Despite the potential for a primary challenge, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Bob Menendez, Senator from New Jersey, suggested that by the election, Gillibrand "will have convinced her fellow Democrats that she deserves their support."[49] However, a February 2009 Quinnipiac University poll showed Gillibrand losing a hypothetical primary matchup to McCarthy, and Gillibrand was said to be worried that Governor Paterson's declining popularity would pull her down too.[50] Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney[50] and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer[51] were also seriously considering a primary challenge to Gillibrand, as was Long Island Congressman Steve Israel.[51][52] In April 2009, Stringer formed an exploratory committee towards that end.[52] Despite the possible challenges, by April 2009 Gillibrand had raised $2.3 million in campaign funds since joining the Senate.[52]

In May 2009, President Obama convinced Congressman Israel to forsake a run, in the interests of not having a messy primary.[53][54] Obama's intervention was largely at the request of Gillibrand patron Charles Schumer.[55] However, Congresswoman Maloney indicated that she was still considering a primary challenge and that Israel's decision would not influence hers.[54] Several days later, Stringer said he would not run either, for the same reasons as Israel.[56] In the wake of their withdrawals, Congressman José Serrano considered running for a while.[57]

In early June 2009, Congresswoman McCarthy took herself out of any run.[58] McCarthy, who had raised only a small fraction of the amount of money Gillibrand had, said her declining was for personal reasons.[58] Maloney, however, still seemed likely to run, and a conversation with Vice President Joe Biden did not change her mind.[55] Several House Democrats from New York said that the White House's interventions to forestall a primary race had been unwise.[55]

As July 2009 began, a senior advisor to Maloney indicated that the congresswoman definitely was in, saying "She's decided to run because she believes there needs to be a debate on the real issues and she wants to give New Yorkers a choice."[59] However, after facing difficulties in hiring staff, and losing some longtime supporters and organizational support in preparation for a bid,[60] Maloney backed out in August 2009.[61]

In September 2009, a New York Post report that disgraced former Governor Eliot Spitzer was considering a Senate run[62] were labeled "totally untrue" and "ridiculous" by Spitzer and his allies.[63]

During 2009, Suffolk County legislature Majority Leader Jon Cooper seriously considered running against Gillibrand,[64] but at the end of the year he opted out of running and endorsed Gillibrand instead.[65]

In January, 2010, the New York Times reported that former congressman Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee was considering a primary challenge against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Ford moved to New York City after his unsuccessful senate run in Tennessee and currently works as a vice-president of Merrill Lynch. He is reportedly backed by several high-profile Democrats, prominent Democratic donors and Wall Street executives who are dissatisfied with Senator Gillibrand.[66] The New York Times originally reported that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may support Ford in a primary challenge. They later reported however, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Mayor Bloomberg to discuss the possibility of Bloomberg backing Ford but they reported that he assured the Majority Leader "that he was not personally involved in the effort to promote a Ford candidacy." Senator Schumer reportedly met with Ford to try and dissuade him from challenging Gillibrand but said the meeting had been planned months in advance.[67] Ford has already drawn fire from liberal advocacy groups and Gillibrand supporters for being too conservative for the state citing his pro-life stance on abortion, support for gun rights, his previous opposition to same-sex marriage and pro-business stance.[68][69] Ford has sought to portray himself as an independent voice for New Yorkers saying he won't be "intimidated or bullied" by "Albany and Washington." Gillibrands allies have sought to portray Ford as opportunistic and out of step with New York Democratic voters citing his conservative record as a Representative of a southern state in Congress and have denied intimidation efforts against Ford saying Gillibrands supporters “aren’t bullying, they’re informing New Yorkers.” .[70][71]

The tussle was enough to bring renewed attempts to lure Congressman Steve Israel into reconsidering a race to represent liberal interests, but his spokesperson said, "The congressman appreciates the encouragement he's received to reconsider his decision regarding the U.S. Senate race in New York. That said, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which he'd re-enter the race."[72] On March 1, Ford indicated that he would not in fact run.[73]

Candidates

Announced

Declined

Polling

Poll Source Dates administered Kirsten Gillibrand Carolyn McCarthy Carolyn Maloney Bill Thompson Harold Ford Jr. Eliot Spitzer Jonathan Tasini Undecided
Marist Poll January 25–27, 2010 44% -- -- -- 27% -- 4% 25%
Rasmussen Reports January 18, 2010 48% -- -- -- 23% -- -- 18%
Siena Poll January 10-14, 2010 41% -- -- -- 17% -- 5% 37%
Marist Poll January 15, 2010 43% -- -- -- 24% -- -- 33%
Quinnipiac December 7-13, 2009 28% -- -- 41% -- -- -- 28%
Marist Poll September 17, 2009 57% -- -- -- -- 29% -- 14%
Rasmussen Reports July 14, 2009 27% -- 33% -- -- -- -- 30%
Marist Poll July 1, 2009 37% -- 38% -- -- -- -- 25%
Qunnipiac June 24, 2009 23% -- 27% -- -- -- 4% 44%
Politico June 9, 2009 25% -- 49% -- -- -- -- --
32% -- 34% -- -- -- -- --
Qunnipiac April 1-5, 2009 29% 33% -- -- -- -- -- --
Marist Poll February 25-26, 2009 36% 33% -- -- -- -- -- --
Quinnipiac February 10-15, 2009 24% 34% -- -- -- -- -- --

Republican primary

Background

King made his likely candidacy clear in December 2008,[77] partly to mention that he was not challenging former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani as the latter was not in the running and partly to counter the wave of publicity for Caroline Kennedy.[78] By January 2009, King was still deliberating over whether he would run, with the main factor being whether he could raise the estimated $30 million he would need.[34] National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair John Cornyn was said to support King,[34] which could keep other Republican contenders out of play. However, Cornyn has reportedly met with former Governor George Pataki to discuss his potential candidacy,[79] which other Republicans were advocating.[80] In June 2009, due to an appointment to the House Intelligence Committee, King said he was much less likely to run.[81] As August 2009 closed, King announced officially that he would not run, saying: "Senator Gillibrand generates neither strong support nor opposition. This makes it virtually impossible for me to raise the campaign funds I would need to overcome the built-in Democratic registration advantage and the countless millions of dollars which the Democrats will make available to Senator Gillibrand."[82] In September 2009, Giuliani reiterated that he had no interest at all in running for the Senate seat,[83] though, much like Andrew Cuomo's speculated desire to run for governor which he has so far denied, it has not stopped speculation that Giuliani might change his mind, and by October 2009, speculation continued that Giuliani would run for the Senate seat, particularly if Cuomo ran for governor.[84] On November 19, 2009, the New York Daily News reported Giuliani would not run for Governor, and in fact would run for the Senate for fill out the last two years of the Clinton term, then use that as a springboard for another presidential run.[85][86] However, a Giuliani spokesperson quickly dismissed the notion that any such plan was in place, saying "When Mayor Giuliani makes a decision about serving in public office, he will inform New Yorkers on his own."[87] On November 26, 2009, Mayor of Larchmont Liz Feld said she's considering running for the seat.[88]

In January of 2010, Congressman Peter T. King said he was reconsidering running for the seat.[89] Real estate magnate and publisher Mort Zuckerman was seriously considering a bid by February 2010.[90] Nominally a Democrat, Zuckerman was more likely to run as a Republican or independent in order to avoid an expensive primary fight.[90] But in early March, he indicated he would not run, saying he had not the time to do it.[91] On March 16, 2010, Former Congressman Joseph DioGuardi announced his entrance into the race.[92]

Candidates

Announced

Potential

State party chairman Edward F. Cox has confirmed he has discussed a potential campaign with Zuckerman, Diana, and two other unnamed candidates that may or may not be on this list.[100]

Not running

Polling

Poll Source Dates Administered Rudy Giuliani George Pataki
Zogby November 20-21, 2009 72% 28%

General election polling

Gillibrand (D) v. Generic Republican v. Ford (I)

Poll source Dates administered Kirsten Gillibrand Generic Republican Harold Ford Jr.
Rasmussen Reports January 18, 2010 39% 34% 10%

With Pataki (R)

Poll source Dates administered Kirsten Gillibrand George Pataki
Rasmussen Reports March 1, 2010 44% 42%
Marist Poll January 25–27, 2010 43% 49%
Siena Poll January 10-14, 2010 38% 51%
Zogby November 20-21, 2009 43% 38%
Marist November 17, 2009 45% 47%
Rasmussen Reports November 17, 2009 45% 42%
Marist November 16, 2009 45% 44%
Marist September 24, 2009 41% 45%
Rasmussen September 22, 2009 44% 41%
Marist September 17, 2009 44% 48%
Siena August 24, 2009 39% 42%
Marist July 1, 2009 46% 42%
Marist May 3, 2009 38% 46%
Siena March 16-18, 2009 41% 41%
Marist February 26, 2009 45% 41%
Marist January 26, 2009 44% 42%
Marist September 17, 2009 33% 58%
Poll source Dates administered Harold Ford George Pataki
Marist Poll January 25–27, 2010 35% 52%

With Blakeman (R)

Poll source Dates administered Kirsten Gillibrand Bruce Blakeman
Marist Poll January 25–27, 2010 52% 30%
Poll source Dates administered Harold Ford Bruce Blakeman
Marist Poll January 25–27, 2010 39% 35%

With Giuliani (R)*

Poll source Dates administered Kirsten Gillibrand Rudy Giuliani
Quinnipiac December 7-13, 2009 40% 50%
Rasmussen Reports November 23, 2009 40% 53%
Zogby November 20-21, 2009 43% 45%
Marist Poll November 17, 2009 40% 54%
Siena November 16, 2009 43% 49%
Marist Poll September 24, 2009 40% 51%
Siena College January 27, 2009 44% 42%
Poll source Dates administered Bill Thompson Rudy Giuliani
Quinnipiac December 7-13, 2009 36% 52%

* Declined to run

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