5/20/09

Jon Cooper's Excellent Adventure

Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper tied the knot recently with long-time partner Rob in a ceremony in Connecticut.

What's Cooper's next adventure?

To decide whether he has enough political juice to prevail in a Democratic Party primary for the U.S. Senate. He's now formed an exploratory committee. To win Cooper would have to not only defeat possible contenders Carolyn McCarthy, Jerold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, but take down incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand as well.

Pundits discount Cooper's chances of winning the Democratic Party's nomination. After all, Gillibrand has the support of Chuck Schumer, David Paterson and Hillary Clinton and other establishment types. And all of the other contenders have higher profiles by virtue of their jobs as members of Congress.

On the contrary, Cooper is a nearly perfect antagonist to Gillibrand. Here's why:

1) He's a genuine Progressive in a deep blue state. Gillbrand is not. And while the other possible contenders can claim long records of moderate to liberal voting records, none can match Cooper's appeal to the Democrat's progressive base.

2) In a head-to-head contest, Gillibrand probably wins with the support of the party machine. However, if it's a three or four way split, Cooper can win with a plurality.

3) Only Cooper's entry neutralizes the Clinton-Schumer factor. These two pols were big supporters of Gillibrand, but Cooper--as Obama's man in NY--would have the benefit of the Obama campaign operation. It's a largely grassroots operation that is still in place, truly progressive, energetic, and ready to go. He's likely to also receive support -- although not an endorsement -- from President Obama.

4) While McCarthy, Maloney and Nadler are formidable fund raisers, and Gillibrand's big ace was raising big bucks, Cooper has his own money. More importantly, he has the appeal and capacity to tap into a national progressives network to fuel his campaign. There's a thirst for electing true progressives. People also want new, fresh faces. That's why Cooper's Washington inexperience and new face at the statewide level are net pluses.

Think Paul Wellstone.

5) Cooper could quickly garner support from the African American, Latino, Gay/Lesbian, student and progressive activist communities. He could match Gillibrand with suburban democrats. And he could out point anyone on business related issues and the stresses on local governments.

6) Finally, as a legislator at the county level, Cooper is best situated to appeal to his fellow colleagues in urban and suburban legislatures and councils -- neutralizing Gillibrand's Albany-centered advantages.

At the end of the day, it's possible Cooper decides he's not interested in the seat. And Gillibrand could still emerge as the darling of both moderates and progressives, erasing Cooper's path. Cooper could also bow out for an ambassadorship. Who knows?

However, if Cooper runs my sense is that -- if done right -- he could be the dark horse in the race and win the nomination. If he could do that, he'd have so much momentum that defeating any GOP retread (Pataki, Faso, Lazio) would happen. Defeating Rudy Giuliani may be another matter, but I think Cooper would be in a great position to be David against Rudy's Goliath and take him down as well.

My advice? Run, Jon, Run!

Links:
Jon Cooper for U.S. Senate: Exploratory Committee - website
Who Is Jon Cooper, and Why Does He Think He Can Run for Senate? - CAPITOL
Another Dem forms committee to challenge Gillibrand - The Hill
Jon Cooper - Polit Bureau
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