I thought that the l'affaire Blagojevich was the best argument for my belief that Senate vacancies should be filled only by special election. But witnessing what has transpired with Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, I have changed my mind -- New York, not Illinois, should be Exhibit A.
As illustrated by Governor Rod, any institution designed by humans can be corrupted by corrupt individuals. But the process that let to Kirsten Gillibrand's appointment shows that gubernatorial Senate appointments are a bad idea even when otherwise decent and well-meaning people are involved.
I have no particular beef with Senator-appoint Gillibrand. By all accounts, she is a talented up-and-comer. Her centrism will probably be a boost both to New York and to the Democratic ticket in 2010. But the average New Yorker certainly knows far less about her than they do about Caroline Kennedy, Carolyn Maloney, Andrew Cuomo, or any of the other leading contenders.
Although I never thought it was a good idea to appoint Kennedy to the seat, there is something terribly unseemly about the insinuations and innuendo that are now flying back and forth between her people and Patterson's people. Whether she had a nanny or tax problem, wouldn't it have been better to have it in the open before a voting public rather than have David Patterson be the judge and jury about whether it disqualified her from office?
It will be interesting to see whether Carolyn McCarthy carries through with her threat to challenge Gillibrand in the Democratic primary over her support for gun rights. Based on DW-NOMINATE scores, Gillibrand is the most conservative Democrat in the NY delgation while McCarthy is 4th most (of 23). So I suspect guns is one of only a handful of issues that divide them. It is not in the Democratic Party's best interest to have a contested primary focused exclusively on gun control.