Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Bruce Reed notes, "In the century since the 17th Amendment provided for direct election to the Senate, about 180 senators have been appointed to fill vacancies. When their appointed terms ran out, those senators met with three fates in equal measure. One-third of them ran for election and lost. One-third ran and won. One-third decided not to run at all. So as a general rule, only one-third of all appointed senators win the voters' blessing in their own right, and half of appointed senators who run for election lose their seats." While it is true that this is, by "congressional standards... an astonishingly low survival rate." I'm not so sure that a raw tally like that really tells the whole story. Without going back and doing the counting myself I can't say for sure, but it seems likely that quite a few of the one-third that decided not to run for re-election were appointed as placeholders. There used to be a tradition of appointing the wife of a senator who died in office, for example. (Muriel Humphrey served out the remainder of her husband's term as I recall.) Nate Silver breaks it down more scientifically over the period from 1956.

It is an interesting test for Governor Patterson. My hunch is that when he took the spot on the ticket with Client 9 there was a tacit understanding that if HRC won the Presidency, Patterson would be tapped to take the seat, but I have no basis for that. In any event, Patterson has really stepped up to the plate since becoming governor, and it is pretty clear that he takes the appointment power seriously. It's interesting to think about the fact that in two years New York will have an election that features both Senate seats and the governor's office.

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