Sunday, January 4, 2009

Richardson's Loss Could Be Senate Dems' Gain

Let it Snowe...

Happy New Year. We kick off this year the way we closed the last - with the discomfiture of a governor. This time it is Bill Richardson of New Mexico, laid low by charges that his Administration illegally gave state contracts to a firm that had donated substantially to his political campaigns. While the case itself will take some months to investigate and adjudicate, Richardson has withdrawn his appointment as Commerce Secretary.

Who should take his place in the Cabinet? Kathleen Sebelius, floated early as a possible nominee, would be on the list. Bill Daley, Commerce Secretary under Clinton and, like Obama, a Chicagoan of note, is a dark-horse contender but a worthy one. Into this hat it's worth tossing the name of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), a Republican who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee. She'd come into the job with the issues at her fingertips, and her nomination would further support Obama's pledge to reach across the aisle. More than that, her appointment would open a Senate seat in Maine, to be filled by the appointee of Democratic Governor Jim Baldacci. The appointee would then run for (re)election in 2012 in a state that generally votes Democrat except against its two incumbent Republican Senators (the other is Susan Collins; Maine has two Democratic Congressman, a Democrat-controlled State Senate and House, and a Democratic Governor in Baldacci), inching Democrats closer to the filibuster-proof majority.

And now, from the Department of Disturbing Coincidences: when not abroad, I have lived in three American states (not counting short hitches on political campaigns) - New Mexico, Illinois, and New York. Their governors as of this time last year: Bill Richardson, Rod Blagojevich, Eliot Spitzer. Quite.

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