Aaron's Real Opinions:

Wrong Again
The Art of Choosing Replacements
by Aaron Harber
December 21, 2008- Print Article

Part 10: Extraordinary Times Require Extraordinary Decisions

While Governor Bill Ritter may initially look to selecting a replacement for Senator Ken Salazar who is well-known, well-connected, and a good fundraiser, it is likely these factors will not be as important in the 2010 General Election as most pundits think.

Part 11: What Can a Freshman Senator Do?

The reason is the nation is facing a financial crisis of extraordinary proportion.  This makes the time we are in different from that of the past few decades.  With this in mind, those looking forward to the 2010 General Election would be wise to consider what might happen over the next two years and what role Colorado's new Senator could play.  And, as a junior Senator who will have less seniority than almost all but one or two of his or her 100 colleagues, what will Ken Salazar's successor truly be able to do?

For these reasons, most traditional political factors have become less relevant.  If Ritter chooses a more traditional path, he may find his selection actually becomes a liability rather than an asset as the economic crisis unfolds.

Part 12: Can Bill Ritter be Bold?

As David Brooks of the New York Times has argued, allowing a Governor to select the successor to those who leave the Senate during their terms is an opportunity to be creative and bold. Most Governors, Brooks claims, overlook this special opportunity and make a selection from a narrow range of predictable candidates. And this tends to be reinforced by the Press, whose lazy members tend to offer lists with little research or basis. They simply regurgitate the names of those of politicians already well-known to the reporters and pundits. The results often end up being uninspiring.

Certainly, lesser-known candidates can mitigate any negatives via accomplishment. And in the next two years, Colorado's junior Senator will have plenty of opportunity to achieve goals not typically reached by new members of the upper chamber.

Part 13: There is More Time Than Most Realize

The truth is there is much time to establish a record prior to the 2010 election and that record will be a key part of the 2010 campaign.  It is likely the new Senator's accomplishments and failures will be far more important than any other factor when voters go to the polls.

Ken Salazar illustrated this with his freshman participation in the bipartisan Gang of 14 (whose numbers actually varied).  By being part of this fraction of the Senate, he was involved in many key decisions as he stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the Senate's most senior and best-known members. 

Part 14: A Republican Model for a Colorado Democrat

On the Republican side, Tennessee's junior Senator, Bob Corker, effectively took on a leadership role in the automobile industry bailout simply due to the vacuum of knowledge and experience which exists in the Senate.  If the right person is selected, Colorado's next Senator could easily rise to national prominence in a matter of weeks rather than years, especially given an even greater vacuum of financial and business expertise on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Part 15: Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

It is this type of creative approach which is needed today. And for Ritter's own self-interest, having such a person succeed Salazar ultimately would benefit the State and Ritter's own reelection because such a person will thrive in what is becoming a very gloomy political environment. Ritter should seek out that rare person who can succeed in a difficult environment.

As 2010 nears, if the Economy is in tatters, Democrats will be the ones who will be blamed. There may be fewer Democratic survivors in 2010 than are forecast right now. Today Democrats understandably are optimistic. They control the nation's agenda and believe they will right America's economic ship. But the challenge may be far greater than many of these officials realize. If 2009 and 2010 are financially disastrous years for the country, the blame will be laid at the feet of the Democratic Party.

Part 16: Making a Choice for the Nation's Future

Governor Bill Ritter's choice of a successor to Ken Salazar should be someone who understands Economics, has academic training in that field, knows the financial world firsthand, and has significant business experience. Criteria such as connections, celebrity, and fundraising are almost meaningless for this position because all of those will come automatically to whomever is appointed. What will not come are the skills necessary to make a difference.

Part 17: Colorado is a Federal Loser

While Ritter certainly wants a Senator who will help bring federal resources to Colorado, he also should want someone who can be a major player as the multi-trillion dollar bailout process continues. If Colorado, with a population of 5 million people out of a national population of 305 million (1.6%) were to get a proportional share of the bailout, the State would receive $14 billion.

Colorado's federal officeholders, however, have not succeeded in getting the State anywhere near its proportion of federal expenditures and, as a result, Colorado serves as a "donor state" with its taxpayers essentially sending more federal funds to other states than it receives. Colorado's next Senator needs to be someone who has the capacity to improve greatly on the job done by both past and current federal officials. Ritter knows that, without a significant infusion of federal dollars, the State is likely to be mired in an even worse recession --- one which could last several years.

Part 18: Colorado's Senator Can Correct Bailout Failures

What Colorado's next Senator should also do is bring the expertise necessary to improve the bailouts and the deals made by the new Administration.  As the Bush bailout demonstrated, most government officials know terribly little about business or the structure of investment deals made in the private sector. 

One consequence was the Democratic-controlled Congress and the Republican-controlled White House gave away hundreds of billions of dollars and, with the help of the Federal Reserve, pledged trillions more --- all without (1) the reasonable terms prudent businesspersons normally would require and (2) the regulatory structures needed to avoid abuses. 

The result has been story after story of how taxpayer dollars were misused (albeit legally) and how taxpayer dollars were used in deals which made little business sense.  Whether it is bailout recipient companies paying year-end bonuses or structuring outrageous retention deals, both Democrats and Republicans grossly failed in their obligations to taxpayers.  These actions were irresponsible and certainly will be a focus of the 2010 campaign.  Having these problems addressed and resolved in 2009 will be critical to the re-election of incumbents --- most of whom are Democrats today.

Part 19: A Win/Win/Win For Ritter, Colorado, and the Nation

By being bold and by not traveling the typical path trod by those before him, Bill Ritter has the opportunity to aid the entire nation, make a real contribution, and help his own reelection.  He can do this by appointing the right person to succeed Ken Salazar --- and it likely is not a name on the list of most-publicized candidates. 

The question is whether or not he has the courage to truly think outside the political box he is in and make a selection not predicted by those around him?  Ironically, by making the boldest of choices, Ritter not only "does the right thing" but ultimately helps his own political future as well.

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