The Replacements: Illinois and New York


As you may be aware, President-Elect Barack Obama has vacated his Senate seat and Sen. Hillary Clinton will be following his lead shortly. In the wake of their respective departures, the Governors of Illinois and New York will be tasked with replacing them in their seats. In the interest of keeping an eye on this less than democratic process, I’m going to be doing a series of posts looking at the various potential replacements through the Sunlight lens. That will involve looking at campaign contributions, earmarks, votes, personal finances, and all the other kinds of data that provide an insight into who these senatorial aspirants are. But first, let’s look at the deciders, Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois and Gov. David Paterson of New York.

Blagojevich is the two-term Democratic Governor of Illinois. If you had to say one thing about him it would be that he is unpopular – super unpopular. At present, Blagojevich’s approval rating stands at 4%. I’m not sure of the margin for error in this poll, but it’s entirely possible that Blagojevich could have a 0% approval rating. This could lead to some taint on the replacement pick, as no one wants to be seen as having anything whatsoever to do with the Governor. Fueling this super unpopularity is a wide-ranging corruption investigation into bid rigging in Blagojevich’s administration.

Blagojevich is facing multiple pressures in his search for a replacement. As President-Elect Obama was the sole African-American in the United States Senate there is pressure from some quarters for Blagojevich to appoint an African-American replacement. Looming larger than the race of the replacement is whether the replacement will serve as a placeholder (as Ted Kaufman will do in Delaware) or will run for a full-term in 2010. This consideration is seen as paramount in Blagojevich’s choice. Another point of interest is Blagojevich’s desire to run for reelection (don’t ask why someone with a 4% approval rating would seek reelection), which may cause him to seek out a loyal supporter.

This is a list of the top ten contributing industries to Blagojevich from 2002-2008. (All data comes from

Lawyers & Lobbyists $5,708,231
General Trade Unions $4,324,645
Public Sector Unions $4,303,189
Construction Services $2,859,157
Party Committees $2,594,549
Securities & Investment $1,855,582
Real Estate $1,819,383
Candidate Committees $1,696,267
Hospitals & Nursing Homes $1,463,246
Health Professionals $1,298,715

Paterson took office as Governor of New York when Elliot Spitzer resigned upon revelations that he had been sleeping with a high-paid prostitute. Paterson’s first order of business, which definitely influences his decision on Sen. Clinton’s replacement, is his 2010 election race. Paterson isn’t facing the kinds of pressures that the wildly unpopular Blagojevich faces, but there are still constituencies to appease and decisions to make. The challenges that Paterson faces include finding someone who can effectively raise a ton of money in two years to run in the 2010 special election, appeasing enough groups to smooth the way for his own election, and deciding whether to choose a rival to clear the Democratic field for the 2010 Governor’s race.

Many groups are putting pressure on Paterson to choose someone from their region, race, or sex. The biggest issue at hand may be regional representation. New York regional rivalries divide on the NYC v. Long Island v. Up State axis. This Senate seat also has a history of carpetbagging. It was previously held by the Massachusetts native Robert F. Kennedy and is currently held by Chicagoan Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This is a list of the top ten contributing industries to Paterson from 1998-2008. (All data comes from

Real Estate $596,200
Lawyers & Lobbyists $418,036
Securities & Investment $303,850
Public Sector Unions $298,675
General Trade Unions $214,725
Candidate Committees $156,070
Retail Sales $137,100
Health Professionals $108,150
Insurance $108,050
General Contractors $62,750

Tomorrow, I’ll start to take a look at the replacement candidates.