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An upstate successor if Hillary leaves?

Let's speculate for a minute.

Suppose President-elect Barack Obama appoints Hillary Clinton secretary of state. Who would get her Senate seat?

Another downstater? Perhaps. Probably. I mean, they hold every other major office in the state  -- governor, comptroller, attorney general, Assembly speaker, Senate majority leader and both U.S. Senate seats.

What if Gov. David Paterson decides to make a gesture to upstate and go north of the Westchester County line for a successor? We've only had four senators from upstate since the Great Depression and the two from Western New York were appointed when their predecessor died in office.

Way back in 1938, James Meade, who was then representing Buffalo is the House of Representatives, was appointed to the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Royal Copeland. Meade won a full six-year term in 1940. He gave up the seat at the conclusion of that term to run for governor.

In 1968, Nelson Rockefeller appointed Charles Goodell of Jamestown to fill Bobby Kennedy's seat after he was assassinated. He lost the seat to Conservative James Buckley when he ran for a full six-year term in 1971, getting only a quarter of the vote in a three-way race.

Two others from upstate gained their Senate offices at the ballot box. Irving Ives, from Chenango County in Central New York, served from 1947 to 1959. Kenneth Keating of Rochester served from 1959 to 1965. He lost his seat to RFK, who he denounced as a "carpetbagger."

In other words, no one from upstate has represented New York in the Senate in 36 years. Which is to say, good luck getting a Senate seat if you're from upstate, and a vacancy may be your best bet, especially if you're from WNY.

So, what does the upstate talent pool look like?

Higgins_and_hillary_2 Brian Higgins looks like the best candidate of the lot. He's got more time in the House, and/or has won election/re-election by wider margins than most of the upstate members of the House. He's tight with Hillary. He's not close to Paterson like he was to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, but it's not like they're enemies. 

And, perhaps most importantly, his selection would shut up all those people in this neck of the woods who bemoan the fact upstaters don't hold any of the state's major political seats. That could help Paterson politically as he runs for a full term as governor.

Still, Higgins would be a long shot. An even longer one would be Leecia Eve, the Harvard-educated lawyer and daughter of Arthur O. Eve who Spitzer considered as a running mate before settling on Paterson. She used to work for Hillary, too.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown? I don't see it. He was close to Paterson back when they both served in the state Senate, and they might still be. But Brown has a relatively narrow base, even in his own back yard, and it's getting narrower. So it's probably Higgins or no one from upstate, at least from WNY.

Of course, there's a longer list of downstaters being mentioned as a possible successor. It starts with Paterson himself, although taking the job would mean turning the governor's office over to the next State Senate majority leader, most likely Malcom Smith, because there's no lieutenant governor.

Other names in the mix include Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a couple of downstate Congress members, Joseph Crowley of Queens and Nita Lowey of Westchester County; and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental attorney mentioned as EPA secretary in an Obama administration.

Gee, he'd be an intriguing choice, huh?

The Buffalo Pundit has a post on this, as well. So does Politico, which mentions some additional potential successors, although the list strikes me as something akin to "everything but the kitchen sink."

Of course, no one knows if Obama will offer Clinton the job, or if she'd accept. But speculation is fun, isn't it?


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