Kirsten Gillibrand Is New York’s Newest Senator

23 Jan

Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY-20) has been appointed by New York Governor David Paterson to fill the Senate Seat Hillary Clinton vacated when she was confirmed as the US Secretary of State.

The NY Times has the details

What do we know about Gillibrand, a second term congresswoman from a sprawling, heavily Republican district from the eastern part of the state?  NY-20 encompasses all or parts of Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties.  The district is 7,018 square miles and contains large sections of the Hudson Valley, the Catskill Mountains and the Adirondack Mountains. With over 4,000 family farms, the district has a large agriculture base.

Coming from a district where the overwhelming majority of elected officials are Republican and a constituent base that is center-right, it’s no surprise that Ms. Gillibrand is decidedly centrist on rural issues like agriculture subsidies, green technology and gun rights.  She has a 100% approval rating from the NRA on gun legislation, which is important in a rural district.  She voted against both versions of the TARP bill, voted to offer immunity to telecoms for wiretapping and voted for the 2007 War Funding Bill.

However, she is not your typical blue dog Democrat.  She received an 80 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign scorecard and supports federal civil union legislation, hate crimes legislation, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, equal tax treatment for domestic partners, funding for needle-exchange programs and increased funding of Medicaid coverage for HIV-positive people.

Gillibrand has a reputation as a top-notch fundraiser and is known for transparency to constituents with monthly “Congress On Your Corner” events and posts her daily schedule online.

She was a logical compromise pick for Paterson after the implosion of Caroline Kennedy as Gillibrand will carry some crossover appeal with upstate Republicans while still courting the lefties with her support of socially liberal policies. Her voting record, experience and cross party appeal are strikingly similar to Buffalo’s own Rep. Brian Higgins (D, NY-27).  It would appear that Gillibrand’s higher profile committee assignments, fundraising prowess and gender had a lot to do with her selection as Gov. Paterson had stated his preference to replace Sen. Clinton with another woman.

Gillibrand will undoubtedly face a primary in 2010 from a liberal downstate Democrat, but she has two years of lead time to build a statewide operation and make her mark in the Senate.

One Response to “Kirsten Gillibrand Is New York’s Newest Senator”

  1. phil_in_ny January 23, 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    I think she’s a great choice, and I’m excited to see how she does in the senate.

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