Dem 51
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GOP 49
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...And So Does Hector LaSalle

We must admit, we still have no idea exactly what is going on with Gov. Kathy Hochul (D?-NY). As a reminder, when a vacancy arises unexpectedly on New York's highest court, the state's Commission on Judicial Nomination sends over a list of seven candidates for the governor to choose from. And that's exactly what they did about a month ago, when the chief judge's seat came open. Even before getting the list, Hochul announced that she was going to appoint someone who would protect abortion rights. Then, she turned around and chose Hector LaSalle, the least abortion-rights-friendly guy on the list, at least judging (no pun intended) by his past jurisprudence. As a bonus, he's also hostile to labor. Between that pick, and several other high-profile moves, like an $850 million handout to the Buffalo Bills, Hochul has often seemed more like a moderate Republican (e.g., Chris Sununu, R-NH) than like the moderate Democrat she claims to be.

It was pretty clear, from the beginning, that the LaSalle nomination was in trouble. And yesterday, he was officially sunk. The Judge had already gotten the thumbs down from the state Senate's Judiciary Committee, but Hochul, who apparently enjoys tilting at windmills, insisted on a full vote before the state Senate. The senators finally complied, and resoundingly rejected the nomination, 39-20. Hochul says she will now pick another name from the list, which means that at least the Governor is better at accepting defeat than Kari Lake is (see above).

The best theory we've got here is that Hochul chose LaSalle (who, despite his French last name, is Latino) to try to shore up her support among Latino voters, and she kept fighting until the bitter end to send a message to those voters. However, we are skeptical that "I tried and failed to get a Latino on the high court" will impress many older Latinos. As to younger Latinos, they were among LaSalle's fiercest critics. Also, whatever the benefits to Hochul were here, did it really help her to get bopped on the head twice by the state Senate, as opposed to just taking her medicine once and then bowing to reality?

In short, it seems like pretty poor politics to us. And between that, and Hochul's rather narrow victory at the polls in 2022, she is surely going to draw some pretty serious Democratic opposition in the 2026 primary (assuming she stands for reelection). New York does tend to reelect its governors once they are in office, but the Empire Staters are also willing to eject a governor they don't like, at least on occasion, including the last person (David Paterson) who took over for a disgraced governor that was compelled to resign. (Z)

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