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EDITORIAL: GOP should help us have a real Senate race

U.S. senator is a pretty good gig. Power. Celebrity. And, most important, a real opportunity to serve the public. With all that, you'd expect a stampede of quality candidates jousting to challenge neophyte Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in November. But there isn't, and that's a shame.

Voters had no say in picking Gillibrand. The upstate Democrat was a sophomore member of Congress when she was appointed by unelected Gov. David A. Paterson to fill the spot vacated by now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Since then, Democratic power brokers have quite ruthlessly carpet-bombed the field of potential primary challengers. People like Reps. Steve Israel and Carolyn Maloney and Suffolk County Legis. Jon Cooper opted out, leaving unaired all the issues they might have championed. It's the public's loss.

Now it's up to the GOP. Republicans should encourage anyone with the dream, the resume and the drive to take a shot. That could include people like former Gov. George Pataki, former state senator and state homeland security director Michael Balboni, Rep. Peter King and the Nassau County Legislature's former presiding officer, Bruce Blakeman - though raising $10 million or more for the race is a serious barrier.

This is not an endorsement or nonendorsement of any particular candidate. It's just that voters deserve a rich field to choose from when filling such a powerful post. And since voters have had no voice so far in picking the Democratic candidate, a Republican primary battle may be the only way to get it. hN