Lazio, Hillary, and Carpetbagger Math

“You can tell from my accent that I am a lifelong New Yorker,” Rep. Rick Lazio said May 20 as he announced his candidacy for the New York Senate in the gymnasium of his old high school on Long Island.

You see, I don’t have to fake it. New York isn’t just a place I represent; it is my home. And I’ve never needed an exploratory committee to decide where I want to live. … I put on my Mets hat when I was 6 years old, and I’ve been working here ever since. I’ve stacked mufflers at Linden Auto Parts on Montauk Highway. I played Little League here, I’ve fished and clammed in our waters … prayed in our churches, I’ve married a wonderful native New Yorker and watched our two little girls come into this world in our local hospitals.

You get the idea. Because Lazio, unlike Rudy Giuliani, is about a decade younger than Hillary Clinton, he apparently thinks he has to holler “carpetbagger!” louder than Giuliani did in order to establish himself as the candidate of experience.

The problem with this line of attack is that it neglects the dramatic extent to which the population of New York State is constantly churning. According to Census data, New York state has the second-highest rate of net domestic out-migration in the country. (California, another state whose politics has a proud tradition of carpetbagging, has the highest.) Between 1990 and 1999, 1.89 million people moved from New York to some other state without any offsetting moves from other states into New York. That’s a net loss of more than 10 percent of the Empire State population. This population loss was largely (though not entirely) offset by the influx of foreigners into the state: New York’s net population gain from abroad was 1.1 million during the 1990s. (The pattern is similar in California, except that in California the number of foreigners moving in exceeds the number of Californians moving out to another state.)

In other words, New York is a state whose character is largely defined by the reluctance of its residents to remain. Even though vast numbers of people move every year from less exciting locales in the United States to New York, they don’t come close to offsetting the many more people who every year move out. This makes the state unusually dependent on those who move in. As many people have pointed out, Hillary Clinton is merely the latest in a long line of carpetbaggers–Robert F. Kennedy being the favorite example–to seek a New York Senate seat. What isn’t often pointed out is that, if present demographic trends continue, in the future we should expect to see more foreign-born U.S. citizens–no doubt some with foreign accents, and perhaps some who are quite recent arrivals–running for Senate in New York. After all, the Constitution (Article I, Section 3) says that any U.S. citizen above the age of 30 is free to run for Senate provided he or she has lived in the U.S. a mere nine years. That’s only a year longer than Hillary’s been living in the White House!

Probably Lazio is counting on the surprisingly large slice of the New York state population–68 percent according to the 1990 census–that, like him, was born in New York. For all New York’s cosmopolitanism, in 1990 it ranked roughly in the middle among the 50 states as measured by its percentage of native-born. (No. 1 was Pennsylvania, where 80 percent were native-born; No. 50 is Florida, where 31 percent were.) But New York’s 68 percent probably dropped somewhat during the 1990s, as New York City’s booming economy brought in more out-of-staters who diluted the ranks of the native-born. Anyway, Chatterbox suspects that a high proportion of New York’s native-born are Democrats.

To read Jacob Weisberg’s pessimistic assessment of Lazio’s chances, click here.