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Following in Hill’s steps - Velázquez to Senate

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One Brooklyn lawmaker is reportedly being considered to replace Hillary Clinton as the next United States Senator from New York while another is lobbying behind the scenes for the job.

But with the borough already having the state’s other Senator in Charles Schumer, some political pundits feel that yet another Brooklyn lawmaker in the Senate is a long shot.

Clinton announced she will be stepping down after the U.S. Senate confirms her as the next Secretary of State in late January, paving the way for Gov. Paterson to name a replacement until a special election for the Senate seat is held in 2010.

Among those that Paterson is reportedly considering is Rep. Nydia Velázquez, whose 12th Congressional district includes Bushwick, Greenpoint, Red Hook, Sunset Park and Williamsburg.

Velázquez is a 16-year veteran of Congress and the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the branch.

Pundits feel that Paterson is under some pressure to find a Latino and woman to fill the role, which would make Velázquez a solid pick.

However, Paterson is also under some pressure to pick a lawmaker from upstate New York, which has long been underrepresented in the Senate and would bode well for Paterson’s own re-election bid in 2010.

Although her name is being mentioned, Velázquez is playing it coy in positioning herself publicly for the job.

“Senator Clinton will be an exceptional Secretary of State. She has done an outstanding job for New Yorkers and whoever succeeds her will have their work cut out for them,” said Velázquez.

“We are fortunate in New York to have several well-qualified candidates for Governor Paterson to choose from. As the Governor moves forward with making this selection, his first consideration must be what is best for the state,” she added.

Also positioning himself behind the scenes is Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose 8th Congressional District includes Borough Park, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sea Gate, Bay Ridge, and Bensonhurst.

Nadler is also a 16-year veteran of Congress.

A Nadler spokesperson said there are a lot of candidates in contention and there is unknown speculation as to what Paterson is thinking.

The spokesperson refused further comment.

Kings County Democratic boss and Assemblymember Vito Lopez said he has had several discussions with Nadler about the position.

“He [Nadler] is making phone calls and so I think he would make a very good U.S. Senator...I think Brooklyn would be well served,” said Lopez.

Lopez acknowledged that he and Velázquez do not have a great relationship even though their districts overlap, but said the fact she is a woman of Hispanic origin makes her a serious candidate.

“The difficulty we have is in having two Brooklyn U.S. Senators, which would make it very hard [for either Velázquez or Nadler],” he said.

Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who has worked on campaigns for both Bill and Hillary Clinton, agrees that geographic balance will matter in the pick to replace Clinton.

The designee has to have three things going for them -- the ability the win in the 2010 election, the ability to raise money and the ability to help the governor win re-election, said Sheinkopf.

Sheinkopf said picking a Catholic designee also seems likely as it is the largest voting bloc in the state with about a 43 percent total turnout.

That would bode well for both Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi as possible picks, said Sheinkopf.

Meanwhile, Paterson is playing it extremely close to the vest on who he will appoint.

“I expect to announce Senator Clinton’s replacement when the position becomes officially vacant,” said Paterson in a statement.

Paterson spokesperson Marissa Shorenstein said the governor’s office is consulting a wide variety of individuals across New York and refused to say if the governor has made either a short or long list.

“There are a wide variety of individuals being considered and we’ll take it from there,” she said.

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