My Vote for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

It appears that New York Governor David Paterson is going to select Kirsten Gillibrand, a second term member of Congress from the 20th Congressional District, to take Hillary Clinton’s place in the U.S. Senate.

gillibrand

If he does so, it’ll be a great choice.

Gillibrand is young (born in December 1966), smart (she graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth, went to UCLA Law School, and clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit), and a powerful campaigner (she is the first Democrat to represent her overwhelmingly Republican district in thirty years).

She is also from upstate New York, which currently has no representation in either the U.S. Senate or the executive branch of New York state government.

And she is only the sixth Member of Congress to have a baby while in office (she received a standing ovation on the floor of the House from her colleagues for working right up to the day she gave birth).

Gillibrand’s initial election to Congress in 2006 was somewhat of a fluke.  Her Republican opponent was four-term Congressman John Sweeney, a rising Republican star with a seat on the Appropriations Committee, who had never had a serious reelection challenge.  But during the campaign, Sweeney was linked to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and forced to admit to domestic violence against his wife.  Gillibrand won the election with 53 percent of the vote.

Immediately following her improbable election, Republican challengers appeared, including Richard Wagner, an aide to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with financial backing from Wall Street, and Alexander (“Sandy”) Treadwell, a former chair of the state Republican Party.  Gillibrand eventually defeated Treadwell in a landslide, 69 percent to 31 percent.

As would be expected from a representative from a Republican and rural district, Gillibrand is more conservative on some issues, such as gun control, than many of her Democratic colleagues.  But she has never voted contrary to the Democratic majority and is a strong supporter of middle class tax cuts, ending the spying abuses of the Bush adminstration, ending the war in Iraq, repealing tax cuts to oil companies, reducing the interest rate on student loans, and reforming health care.

Kirsten Gillibrand would make a great senator — and be a powerful addition to the Democratic Party’s arsenal of smart, young, and tremendously appealling advocates in future national campaigns.

UPDATE

The New York Times reports that Governor Paterson has, in fact, selected Kirsten Gillibrand as the new United States Senator from New York.

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One response to “My Vote for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

  1. While some on the Left have criticized Paterson’s selection of Gillibrand as being too conservative, and while she is more conservative on some issues than many Democrats, particularly on gun control, she also has a 100 % rating from the ACLU and is a fierce advocate for women’s and reproductive rights.

    Someone with a 100% rating from the ACLU and enthusiastic endorsement by New York’s leading women’s and abortion rights advocates (including NARAL Pro-Choice New York) is not “conservative.”

    The selection of Gillibrand also has the endorsement of New York’s Empire State Pride Agenda Executve Director Alan Van Cappelle: “I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples. She also supports the full repeal of the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) law, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and passage of legislation outlawing discrimination against transgender people. While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues.”

    It would also be a mistake to underestimate Gillibrand’s abilities as a campaigner – not only did she win in a landslide in an overwhelmingly Republican district and defeat far more experienced and well-know opponents, she raised a stunning amount of money in each of her campaigns. Since Paterson wanted to pick a replacement for Hillary Clinton who could both retain the senate seat for Democrats and help him remain governor in the next election, he was smart to pick Gillibrand over Maloney. Keeping the seat Democratic in the next election is a legitimate — and important — consideration and Gillibrand has proven her ability to win hard races.

    Also, Gillibrand was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton in her primary battle with Barack Obama. Her appointment should therefore please Hillary supporters who are still smarting from the primary (of whom there are many, especially in New York) and further unite the party.

    I think Gillibrand is a terrific pick and will make a terrific senator with a strong progressive presence on the national stage.

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