Shadow Senators Emerge After Obama's Election

Quick Quiz: Who are Ted Kaufman and Michael Bennet?

Give up? Here's an easier one: Who is Roland Burris?

That's right, he took President Obama's place in the Senate.

And Kirsten Gillibrand will join that group soon.

The ascent of Obama and Vice President Biden have pitched the U.S. Senate into a game of musical chairs. One new senator arrives and even before the headline ink dries, another one takes the stage. It's hard to keep track. Maybe they should be required to wear their names and a number on the back of their suits, much like baseball players.

These appointees are U.S. Senators, through and through. They've been sworn-in, can vote and carry all the trappings the office affords. But the question is, how long will some of them be here?

It's like the U.S. Senate now features a new category of lawmaker: Shadow senator.

Shadow senators have been a part of the American political scene since the late 19th Century. U.S. territories have them. So does the District of Columbia. They are elected, low-profile positions with no voting rights and no official duties.

Granted, the foursome of Kaufman, Bennet, Burris and Gillibrand are different from true shadow senators. But they are not household names. And in many respects, these lawmakers emerged from the shadows to take office. And even while serving in the Senate, some may continue to operate in the shadows.

Most know who Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., is because of whom he replaced and who appointed him.

Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is a different story.

Few people heard of Gillibrand before Wednesday when word came that Caroline Kennedy was not a candidate to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate. Even fewer people had ever heard of Gillibrand until slightly more than two years ago when she upset former Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., in a traditionally Republican-leaning district.

The guitar hero profiles of the people they replaced thrust Burris and Gillibrand into the spotlight. And much focus will remain on them throughout their time until they face the voters.

But can they survive an election?

Burris is raising money for 2010. He could face primary challenges from Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. Of course, one of the issues for Burris could be why he accepted an appointment from indicted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Burris is still getting his Senate moorings. He was spotted Thursday night coming out of the chamber and asking a doorkeeper which way to the elevator.

The situation is very different for Gillibrand. She is the only member of the New York Congressional delegation to vote against last fall's financial rescue package. Those votes won't sit well when she needs to raise money from Wall Street. Plus, representing the hunting country of the Hudson River Valley, Gillibrand earned the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.

While it's not the same as field dressing a moose, Gillibrand says her mother "is the best shot in my family." She later remarked that her district is where people "usually shoot the Thanksgiving turkey."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has serious concerns about Gillibrand's firearms positions. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., is already plotting a primary challenge to Gillibrand. It was the gun issue that drove McCarthy into politics. Her husband was mowed down and her son critically injured in a 1993 shooting spree on the Long Island Railroad.

And then there are Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del. and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Nearly everyone in the Senate understands that Kaufman is a seat-warmer. Kaufman worked for Biden for 21 years in the Senate and won't run for the seat. Kaufman is believed to be holding the seat for Biden's son Beau who's now in Iraq. Few outside the Senate inner-circles have ever heard of Kaufman. And they probably won't again once his time is up and the younger Biden runs for his dad's seat.

No one really knows Bennet either. He was superintendent of the Denver Public Schools before his Senate appointment to succeed new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Bennet has never runs statewide. Republicans are gearing up to challenge him next year.

Perhaps the best example of a true "shadow senator" was former Sen. Harlan Matthews, D-Tenn. In 1993, then Tennesee Gov. Ned McWherter appointed Matthews to fill out the Senate term of Al Gore who resigned to become vice president. The low-key Matthews had no aspirations to run for Gore's seat. Matthews' caretaker appointment allowed McWherter to stay above the political fray unlike New York Gov. David Paterson with his machinations over Caroline Kennedy, Andrew Cuomo and now the selection of Gillibrand.

But perhaps one other figure best fits this contemporary "shadow senator" description.

Former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., remains locked in a fight with Democratic candidate Al Franken in their Senate contest. The brouhaha could drag through the courts for months. Coleman's term officially ended January 3. So with no clear winner in the race, Coleman no longer has a desk on the Senate floor and has until early February to pack up his office in the Hart Senate Office Building.

Still, as a former senator, Coleman can visit the floor. And he's been spotted walking the halls of the Senate in recent days.

So perhaps Coleman is truly a "shadow senator."

And if the courts rule in favor of Coleman and he returns to office, maybe Franken can become the Senate's "shadow comic."

FOX News' Chad Pergram has won an Edward R. Murrow Award and the Joan Barone Award for his reporting on Capitol Hill.