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Source: Newsday

Gillibrand vows to represent both downstate, upstate

BY JAMES T. MADORE

Posted: January 25, 2009
Originally Published: January 24, 2009

ALBANY - Vowing to foster common ground between downstate and upstate, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday accepted the appointment to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But unanimity was lacking in the reception received by the little-known Democrat from Hudson. While Clinton supporters and advocates for gay marriage and abortion rights touted her, backers of gun control - including Mayor Michael Bloomberg - and immigrant rights found fault.

Recognizing these views, Gillibrand extended an olive branch to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), a gun-control advocate who is mulling a primary challenge because of Gillibrand's pro-gun stance.

Gillibrand, 42, acknowledged that she isn't known beyond her 10-county district straddling the Hudson River. "I realize that for many New Yorkers this is the first time you've heard my name ... [but] I will represent the many diverse views and voices of the entire state as your senator," she said.

Gov. David A. Paterson selected the new senator after a nearly two-month process that veered from the bizarre to the sublime. The most famous contender, Caroline Kennedy, dropped out Wednesday, citing a "personal situation" that gubernatorial aides said involved taxes and the employment of household help. And Gillibrand's introduction as the junior senator was interrupted by congratulatory telephone calls from President Barack Obama.

Having served just two years in the House, Gillibrand's resume is skimpy compared with many of the 15 Senate candidates, including state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).

Only two of Gillibrand's rivals for the Senate job, Suozzi and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, attended her rollout. The stage instead was filled with other representatives, state officials and a few Republicans, including former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, of Lido Beach. A Paterson spokesman said D'Amato was invited as one of only two living former senators. (The other is Clinton, who is now secretary of state and was unable to attend.)

Suozzi and Israel expressed gratitude at being considered for the post.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said Gillibrand "has distinguished herself ... as a strong proponent of the environment."

However, Assemb. Peter M. Rivera (D-Bronx), said, "I find no compelling reason for the governor to select a conservative Democrat to carry on the progressive work of ... Clinton."

Gillibrand is only the third senator to be appointed by a governor in state history. The other two, Republicans John Foster Dulles in 1949 and Charles Goodell in 1970, were defeated when they sought election. Gillibrand will face voters next year to fill out the final two years of Clinton's term.

Paterson said one reason that he chose Gillibrand was her winning twice in a heavily Republican district. Her gender and upstate residency also bring diversity to the potential all-male Democratic ticket for 2010.

When Kennedy was the front-runner for the Senate post, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he would challenge her. Asked Friday if he would continue his bid, King said Gillibrand's appointment helps him in New York City and its suburbs. "I'm still very much considering a run and this gives me new openings."

Speaking with reporters, Paterson said he had decided to tap Gillibrand by the time he attended Obama's inauguration on Tuesday. Paterson also said Cuomo never formally applied for the job because Paterson told him he didn't want every statewide office to be held by someone who wasn't elected by voters. Paterson said, "I didn't want to have another issue of filling a vacancy."

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

NAME Pronounced JILL-a-brand

BORN Dec. 9, 1966, Albany

EDUCATION Bachelor's degree in Asian studies from Dartmouth University and a law degree from UCLA.

EXPERIENCE 20th District, U.S. House of Representatives, 2006-present. Special counsel to Andrew Cuomo when he was U.S. secretary of housing and urban development in the 1990s. Former partner in the Albany office of the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

FAMILY Married, two children

RATING HER RECORD

How interest groups rate Gillibrand's voting record in the House

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Abortion rights advocates 100%

Family Research Council

Anti-abortion group 5%

AFL-CIO

Labor union 96%

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Business federation 60%

American Conservative Union

Conservative advocacy group 8%

Americans for Democratic Action

Liberal advocacy group 95%

National Rifle Association

Pro-gun rights group 100%

League of Conservation Voters

Environmentalist group 69%

Votes with party majority

Gillibrand 91%

Other NY Democrats (average) 98.9%

SOURCE: CQ WEEKLY AND ORGANIZATIONS' WEB SITES

THE ROAD AHEAD

ELECTION NEXT YEAR. Kirsten Gillibrand would have to run for election in November 2010 to fill the remaining two years of Hillary Rodham Clinton's term.

HER CHALLENGERS. Gillibrand could face competition both from Republicans and Democrats. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), a prominent gun-control advocate who says Gillibrand's views on the issue make her an unacceptable Senate candidate, says she will run in a primary against Gillibrand if no one else does.

GOP CONTENDERS. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) has announced he will run in '10.

NEW CONTEST. Another election will take place in 2012 for the full six-year term.