How will Schumer’s re-election campaign affect a Giuliani Senate bid?
Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani dropped off from the 2010 gubernatorial contest here in New York. But his people are still trying to drive up his speaking and consulting fees by teasing the Empire State with the prospect that he hopes to make a run for the Senate in the 2010 special election. And in the conventional telling, the only thing standing between private sector Rudy and Senator Giuliani are an incumbent, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who he crushes in the polls.
But this analysis leaves out a major force that will be along for the ride on the 2010 Senate campaign trail in New York: Senator Chuck Schumer.
The United States Senate long ago established a three class system so that no state’s two senators are up for re-election at the same time. But every so often when a Senator leaves office before their term ends, a state finds itself with two Senators simultaneously bidding for election or re-election. 2010 will be such a year for New York – Schumer is up for his third term, and Gillibrand is seeking to win a special election following on her appointment to fill out Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s term.
That the November 2010 race will go down this way is probably good news for Gillibrand, and not so great for Giuliani. With the help of Wikipedia, I found three recent elections where two Senators were up for election or re-election at the same time. And in each one of them, Senators from the same party were elected by the voters of the state in question:
- In Wyoming in 2008, both Mike Enzi and John Barrasso were on the campaign trail, with the latter running for special election following on the death of Senator Craig Thomas. Enzi won with more than 75% of the vote in red Wyoming, and Barasso took about 73% of the vote.
- 2008 in Mississippi brought about a comparable circumstance; Thad Cochran was handily re-elected by 61% of the vote, and Roger Wicker, who had replaced former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, took just under 55% of the ballots.
- In 1996, Kansas had a pair of openings that were both filled by Republicans. Senator Pat Roberts replaced a retiring Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker with 62% of the votes. Incumbent Senator Sheila Frahm, who had been appointed to finish Bob Dole’s term, was ousted in a Republican primary by Sam Brownback, who took 53% of the vote in the general election.
There are quite a few factors that may have contributed to the situations in question. But it’s difficult to deny a few factors when considering this steady record of joint victories by Senators of the same party when running for office simultaneously.
First, I have to wonder if opportunities for joint campaigning occasioned by the dual Senate races are useful to the newer Senator who is less well-known but tied to the incumbent party. Senator Schumer is well-regarded in New York, having been re-elected in 2004 with about 70% of the vote. Not known to be facing any serious Republican challenger, he can lend ample time to be the wind beneath Gillibrand’s wings.
Second, in addition to the joint campaign opportunities, the incumbent Senator, in this case Schumer, must have an extensive web of fundraising ties, some of which can be lent to the newb.
Last, is there a cognitive dissonance factor at play in races like this? If you turn up the re-elect the guy you know, a voter would have to be pretty hostile to Gillibrand to not punch the Democratic ticket for her, too. Ultimately, these two senators may not appear that different from another in ideological terms, so if turnout is presupposed for Schumer, few of his supporters seem likely to split their ticket.
The variable in this equation that may not have been present in previous elections is the Schumer-Giuliani relationship. A Newsday article from 2007 by Tom Brune speculated on how Schumer would be put on the spot if the 2008 presidential race ended up being Giuliani versus Clinton, and pointed out the lengthy personal relationship between the two men. Probably not true, but the details are worth considering:
Schumer, 56, and Giuliani, 63, share some unconventional common ground: Both were born in Brooklyn, the home of the Dodgers, but grew up as Yankees fans.
They do have basic differences personally and politically: Schumer is a traditional Democrat and Giuliani a free-market Republican.
But they also have similar hawkish views on crime, terrorism and protecting Israel, and lenient views on abortion, gay rights and gun control — positions out of step with the base and ideologues of their parties.
They have common friends and associates in the political, business and social world of New York City, including many big-name campaign donors such as Giuliani’s presidential campaign backers Paul Singer and Ken Langone.
And they are both driven men, ambitious and self-confident, known for their love of attention.
Neither Schumer nor Giuliani would comment for this article.
While not personal friends — they now only see each other at the annual Sept. 11 ceremony in New York, a source said — they remain friendly.
Schumer tells reporters he likes Giuliani, and Giuliani talks about how he named Schumer’s wife, Iris Weinshall, to his mayoral cabinet. Both talk fondly about working together on crime legislation in 1994.
“There’s a kind of cordial connection,” Siegel said. “There is never a bitter clash between them.”
More than this, Brune reminded readers that Giuliani may have helped Schumer out of a legal jam when the US Attorney’s office he oversaw from Washington chose not to prosecute then-Congressman Schumer over complicated mail fraud allegations related to political business back in New York.
Given the history between the men, you can’t not ask whether Schumer might pull some punches if Gillibrand and Giuliani square off on the campaign trail.
On the other hand, Senator Schumer emerged during the battle over Gillibrand’s appointment as one of her strongest champions. Schumer worked very hard as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for four years to build his party’s near super-majority in the Senate. And it’s difficult to imagine that he’d let anything happen that would allow the GOP to gain ground in the body. And that could just as likely mean Schumer interceding on Gillibrand’s behalf and asking Rudy to keep raking in the big bucks in the private sector. As a known wheeler and dealer, it’s not a move that would be beneath Schumer.
Everyday, it looks like the 2010 campaigns in New York are going to be a snoozefest.