As I hypothesised yesterday, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand who represents New York’s 20th district, has been appointed by Governor David Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Gillibrand’s choice was backed heavily by the senior Senator from the state Chuck Schumer. Schumer has a lot of weight in the national Democratic Party, and even more in the New York branch. It would be very unwise to go against Schumer’s “advice” – something I suspect Paterson had in mind when he made the decision. Paterson himself has to run for reelection at the same time Schumer and Gillibrand (2010 midterms). Having the most popular politician in the state on your good side will help – especially considering Schumer will have a lot of free campaigning time (he is a shoe-in for reelection).
Gillibrand, a woman and from up-state New York, seems to be a safe pick. She won her seat in the House in 2006 defeating a 4 term incumbent Republican in a safe-ish Republican seat in the state (it’s ranked R+3) – 53% to 47%. Some critique her that she didn’t win the election in a competitive year (2006 was a Democratic sweep of the House and Senate). Another possible detraction is that she has never taken part in, nor won, a state-wide election. However, to counter this Paterson would have looked at her fundraising numbers. She raised a massive amount in her 2006 campaign without actually fundraising in the New York City area (which has millions of people, more money, and is even more Democratic than her House district). Another benefit – she’s 42 years old. Young for a senator. And you can’t really get around the fact she will probably end up being the most attractive senator when she takes her seat. The party, should they keep her safe and clear of hassles, might have some long-term plans for her. I suspect with this free push up the ladder that Gillibrand might be looking at her future options too.
I think the most appealing thing about Gillibrand is that she is very bipartisan. She is backed by the National Rifle Association (the most Republican support group out there) and the American Civil Liberties Union (the most Democratic support group). Her reelection last November supports her bipartisan appeal too – she won, in her still R+3 seat, with big numbers: 62% to 38%. She served, as part of the House, on the Committee for Agriculture and the Committee for Armed Services. She’s asked to serve on those to committees when she takes her Senate seat – which adds more bipartisan appeal (armed services ranks well with Republicans, agriculture ranks well with rural New York Republicans).
All-in-all, the pick is a good, safe, and solid one by Paterson. Andrew Cuomo would have been a good pick, but I suspect that Gillibrand will turn out to be the better one.