After a big political flap, New York gets its new U.S. senator
U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, who's relatively conservative, is named to take the seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Her nickname as an up and coming New York Congresswoman was: “Little Hillary.”Skip to next paragraph
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But her title will soon be United States Senator.
Governor David Paterson made the announcement at noon today.
“I have found the best candidate to be the next United States Senator from New York,” said Governor Paterson at a press conference in Albany. “Kirsten Gillibrand is dynamic, she is perceptive, she is courageous, she is outspoken.”
Congresswoman Gillibrand (D) is a relative unknown who has just begun her second term, a Blue Dog Democrat representing the conservative 20th District in the Hudson Valley. She meets two of the key qualifications Paterson set for his choice: she’s a woman and she’s from Upstate. That’s expected to help the downstate governor when he runs for election in 2010 on the same ticket. The choice, though, rankled some older political hands who’d hoped for the seat and some liberals concerned about her pro-gun stance, but it’s being praised overall.
“It’s an inspired appointment. She’s a fighter, she’s a hard worker and she understands the problems of upstate New York to the core,” says Helen Desfosses, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Albany. “And she’ll be able to win election in her own right in two years because she’s had to fight to win her seat and for re-election just a few months ago.”
Patterson’s announcement came after a politically tumultuous month set off by the surprise announcement from intensely private Caroline Kennedy that she wanted the senate seat once been held by her uncle Robert Kennedy. As a close friend of President Obama who supported the idea, it sparked dreams of another New York Camelot. But they were short-lived. After an awkward political roll-out, Ms. Kennedy’s quest ended in a one-line statement that she was withdrawing her nomination for personal reasons. That was followed by a day of sniping in the press between unnamed aides to Paterson and Kennedy. In all, New York pundits say, it didn’t reflect well on Paterson’s handling of the entire appointment process.
“The process was very, very messy, and Governor Paterson has clearly done some damage, at least in the short-term, and possibly the long-term,” says New York pollster Lee Miringoff. “He clearly has, at least minimally, annoyed such political names as Kennedy, Cuomo, and Obama, which, as an unelected governor you probably do at some peril.”
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo was also said to have been interested in the appointment, but he never vied for it publicly. And Gillibrand has close ties to the Attorney General. When he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Developing during the Clinton administration, Gillibrand was his Special Counsel. That’s led some analysts to contend the damage to Paterson may be overplayed.