On Tuesday, Bob Turner announced that he’s running for Senate, following the dissolution of his congressional district. I volunteered for him when he sought the office in the special election, and have no objection to his current plans. Turner may be the strongest candidate the Republican party has. Last year, he probably got more good press than any other Representative from New York, to say nothing of any member of the Republican party.
The norm is for Congressmen to run for Senate after 3-5 terms in the House, but Turner’s attempt isn’t unprecedented. In 1994, first-term Congressman Michael Huffington came within two points of unseating Diane Feinstein. Though I doubt Turner would want to completely follow in Arianna Huffington’s formerly closeted ex-husband’s footsteps. Gilibrand was appointed to the Senate after one term in the House, while John Kerry became Senator after two years as Lieutenant Governor. Washington’s Maria Cantwell was a one-term Representative who lost her bid for reelection, but was elected to the Senate in a more favorable environment.
Turner strikes me as a guy who would like to be a Senator, but doesn’t fear a loss. This is New York, so Gilibrand would still be the favorite. But by making it difficult for her, Turner would do a huge favor for his party, forcing Democrats to defend a seat in the most expensive media market in the nation. Money the DSCC spends in New York can’t go to the toss-up elections in Virginia, Wisconsin and New Mexico.
Gilibrand has spent the last two years impressing the Democratic base, which is why the National Journal looked at her voting record, and determined that she was the most liberal Senator, tied with Jeff Merkley of Oregon. She was appointed by a really unpopular Governor, so she had good reason to fear a potential primary. But steps taken to avoid that might have made her vulnerable in the General Election.
In 2010, the Governor’s mansion and two Senate seats were up for grabs. Yet the Republican party fielded better office-seekers for Attorney General and State Comptroller. So I’m pleasantly surprised that we actually have a good candidate this time around. And I suspect that the candidates for state legislature and US House will be much happier with Turner as the standard-bearer than Carl Paladino.
If Turner wins, considering his age, he would probably be a one-termer. He described himself as a citizen-candidate, so potential models might be Senators who won in upsets and chose not to seek a second term. Currently, that would be Jim Webb, although decades ago, there was also Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa, President of San Francisco State University elected to the Senate at 70, as a Republican.