Wilson a Good Choice for Controller
by Anthony Stasi
Oct 19, 2010 | 2221 views | 0 0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Harry Wilson and Dan Donavan are the only Republicans in competitive statewide races this year. Wilson, who was endorsed by the New York Times for state comptroller last week, is a very strong candidate for an office that has often been served well by Republicans in the past. Ned Regan did a fine job from 1979-1993 as comptroller, only to be followed by Carl McCall and Alan Hevesi.

Also, the controller’s race is the most important race in the state this year given the financial situation in New York.

Wilson helped bring General Motors back, and has worked for major investment houses. Working for investment firms is no flaw in running for this particular office. This is a tough office to campaign for, since most of us are not as traveled in the financial language that the position entails. Wilson can address the best ways to invest, spend, and oversee state expenditures. Unfortunately, in down-ballot races like this, candidates are often at the mercy of the top of their ticket. Here is hoping Wilson can get the votes needed to be elected comptroller. If Wilson gets elected, there will some GOP presence in statewide government, which is healthy for the state and the two-party system.

Twenty-four Recusals

You wonder what the vetting process has been for a potential Supreme Court nominee by the time they actually meet with the president. The benefit to nominating someone with less judicial experience, as President Clinton and President Bush saw it, is that there is less of a body of work for the Senate to critique. The downside to that kind of decision-making process is that the public generally feels more confident with someone that has sat on a bench for some period of time. All of this leads to Elena Kagan, the former solicitor general and now Supreme Court justice. Kagan has recused herself from 24 cases that are on the Court docket. That means that there are eight justices instead of the usual nine for those 24 cases. That also means that there can be a bevy of four-to-four tie decisions.

In the event of a tie with eight justices, the decision automatically affirms the lower court’s decision. Basically, by affirming the lower court’s decision, the tie means that the Supreme Court does not really render an opinion. The eight-justice approach is not good for contemporary constitutional questions.

Last week, former solicitor generals Paul Clement and Seth Waxman met at The Catholic University of America to discuss the role of the solicitor general and this situation. (Both of these men have gone back into private practice, so there is no conflict with their work today.)

There is a belief in Washington that Kagan is not as liberal as justices Souter or Sotomayor. Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vermont) knows this, and he has argued that the Court should bring a retired justice to the bench as someone to sit in temporarily. A Ruth Bader Ginsburg or John Paul Stevens type of judge is what the more left-leaning lawmakers would prefer, but that would entail a major change by Congress.

“I would rather not see the court take a retired judge off the bench…or on the bench as it may be” Waxman cleverly explained. He also went on to stress that there is no decree that a judge recuse herself. There is no mandate a justice has to recuse, its voluntary.

Along with the questions of separation of powers, executive powers, and civil rights, should not part of the questioning of a nominee be that they are, in fact, available to hear cases? Twenty-four cases are a lot to miss, and they involve issues such as Perry v. Schwarzenegger (gay marriage) and the Westboro Baptist Church (free speech to protest funerals). These are big cases to head into with only eight justices.

How to Pick Lt. Governor

The state of New York was briefly fixated on a state constitutional issue last year regarding how to fill the lieutenant governor’s position if the governor himself was not elected to his post. The state settled on Richard Ravitch, but with no further clarity on the procedure should we find our way to that problem going forward.

The need to find a new lieutenant governor was lost in the ongoing criticism of Governor Paterson for a variety of other issues. A solution might be to have the State Senate majority leader become the acting lieutenant governor and then have candidates run for the slot in the next gubernatorial election. The open state senate seat can then be a special election in the particular district that would then be open. It is a way to open up the process to the voters and does not slow the executive government down, which the state cannot endure at present time.

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