Some states have elections. In New York, we just appoint.
When a State Supreme Court judge blocked Richard Ravitch from serving as lieutenant governor on Tuesday, it was just another reminder that there are six statewide offices in New York, and right now four of them are occupied by people who didn't run for them.
Sen. Charles Schumer and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo are the only ones who actually got elected. Perhaps they should be given some special honorific, or be automatically sent to the front of all parades.
Given the kind of summer David Paterson's been having, one negative court ruling against Ravitch is hardly the worst thing that's happened lately. But the governor definitely does not have a talent for seamless appointments. Poor Ravitch had to be sworn in at a Brooklyn steakhouse where he was having dinner, one step ahead of irate Republicans waving restraining orders.
Even that moment - immortalized by a waiter who took a commemorative picture with Ravitch's wife's cell phone - was orderly compared to the naming of a Senator to succeed Hillary Clinton. In no time at all, Paterson managed to humiliate Caroline Kennedy and irritate all the officials who were encouraged to apply, to hope, to fill out questionnaires - only to be passed over for the second-term Representative Kirsten Gillibrand.
Things don't seem likely to settle down with time. It's very possible that the courts will find that Paterson had no legal right to appoint a lieutenant governor. There's nothing in the constitution one way or the other. But after all, when the state comptroller had to resign in disgrace (these stories do keep coming) the governor didn't get to just barge in and name a replacement.
No, in that case, a special review panel including three former state comptrollers was assembled to review candidates and selected three finalists. The names were delivered, with all due solemnity, to the Assembly -- where the legislators completely ignored the results and selected one of the rejects, Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli.
Now DiNapoli has run afoul of the state senate, which has started to reject his office's bills out of pure pique. Gillibrand, who was chosen to help improve Paterson's own chances at the top of the ticket in 2010, looks as though she'll be primaried by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, creating no end of future opportunities for bad will all around.
Somehow, somewhere, New York has offended the election gods. Ravitch is just lucky that during his swearing-in, he didn't choke on a piece of steak.