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January 14, 2009

GOP wants vote on Senate seat

Legislature minority party objects to Paterson's process

ALBANY — Republicans in New York's Legislature are pushing for a special election to fill the expected vacancy in the U.S. Senate instead of allowing Democratic Gov. David Paterson to make a unilateral appointment through a secretive process.



The efforts, however, are by traditionally powerless minority conferences of the Assembly and Senate and face a near impossible timetable to even get the bills to floor debates before Paterson chooses Hillary Rodham Clinton's successor from a field of Democrats including Caroline Kennedy and Andrew Cuomo.



Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, a Schenectady Republican, noted specifically that Kennedy, the perceived front-runner, has no record in elected office and her positions on public policy are largely unknown.



"We need an election — not a coronation — to ensure our next U.S. senator reflects the will of the people," Tedisco said.



He warned that filling vacancies without an election is "diminishing democracy." Two of New York's six statewide offices — governor and comptroller — are already filled by unelected officials: Paterson ascended to the job when Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution investigation and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was appointed after Alan Hevesi pleaded guilty to using state employees as drivers and companions for his wife.



In a press conference, Tedisco distributed an Associated Press story from the morning papers that quoted New York's expert on open government and good-government advocates criticizing Paterson's process of not releasing who is seeking the seat, what they stand for, or any background information. Tedisco also noted the scandal in Illinois, where Gov. Rod Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell to the highest bidder his appointment for the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. In Illinois, the House had sought to take the appointment power away from the governor, but the effort failed.

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