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After a big political flap, New York gets its new U.S. senator

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“It’s an inspired appointment. She’s a fighter, she’s a hard worker and she understands the problems of upstate New York to the core,” says Helen Desfosses, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Albany. “And she’ll be able to win election in her own right in two years because she’s had to fight to win her seat and for re-election just a few months ago.”

Democratic infighting

Patterson’s announcement came after a politically tumultuous month set off by the surprise announcement from intensely private Caroline Kennedy that she wanted the senate seat once been held by her uncle Robert Kennedy. As a close friend of President Obama who supported the idea, it sparked dreams of another New York Camelot. But they were short-lived. After an awkward political roll-out, Ms. Kennedy’s quest ended in a one-line statement that she was withdrawing her nomination for personal reasons. That was followed by a day of sniping in the press between unnamed aides to Paterson and Kennedy. In all, New York pundits say, it didn’t reflect well on Paterson’s handling of the entire appointment process.

“The process was very, very messy, and Governor Paterson has clearly done some damage, at least in the short-term, and possibly the long-term,” says New York pollster Lee Miringoff. “He clearly has, at least minimally, annoyed such political names as Kennedy, Cuomo, and Obama, which, as an unelected governor you probably do at some peril.”

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo was also said to have been interested in the appointment, but he never vied for it publicly. And Gillibrand has close ties to the Attorney General. When he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Developing during the Clinton administration, Gillibrand was his Special Counsel. That’s led some analysts to contend the damage to Paterson may be overplayed.

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