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