Is There an Upset in the Making in New York?


republican-congressman-joe-dioguardiNew York’s Kirsten Gillibrand doesn’t appear on lists of endangered Democratic Senate incumbents. But as an appointed Senator who has never faced a statewide electorate, she still has reason┬áto look over her shoulder. Despite having held office for 18 months, the latest Quinnipiac Poll gives her no more than 45% of the vote against any of three possible GOP opponents. She holds a comfortable lead only because many New Yorkers have heard little or nothing about the GOP candidates.Nonetheless, a full 39% of New York voters haven’t heard enough about Ms. Gillibrand to form an opinion about her either. In a volatile, anti-liberal incumbent year, anything can happen. In 1994, the last such year, even the respected and well-known Daniel Patrick Moynihan won only 55% of the vote against an unknown Republican in what would prove Moynihan’s last re-election campaign for the Senate in New York.

That makes the September 14 GOP primary to choose her opponent worth noting. Right now, none of the three candidates is known to more than a third of the primary electorate, so victory may go to the candidate with the most impressive endorsements. In that department, former Bear Stearns economist and Reagan administration official David Malpass has the clear edge. In recent days he scooped up enthusiastic support from both former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the New York Post.

His opponents include Bruce Blakeman, a former Port Authority commissioner who is burdened by his ties to a discredited GOP machine in Nassau County, and Joe DioGuardi, a former congressman and former partner at the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen. Mr. DioGuardi has seen Congressional profligacy up close, but at age 70 he has been out of office for over two decades. In a low-profile race, however, his Italian last name and pro-life views are a major asset with a conservative primary electorate that includes many Italian-Americans.

Whoever wins the GOP nomination will be at a clear disadvantage in financing and campaign infrastructure against Senator Gillibrand. But she’s on the wrong side of key issues for many voters, just last week claiming she has no regrets about her support for the TARP bailout of financial institutions in 2008. Given the Moynihan experience in 1994, she might need all the millions she has in the bank to fend off an angry electorate.

{The Wall Street Journal/}