What’s Kirsten Gillibrand Up To?
ICYMI, this was today’s morning memo:
It looks like Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn’t the only New Yorker keeping a close eye on Hillary Clinton as she mulls whether to make another run for the White House in 2016.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the state’s junior US senator, has been generating a lot of buzz lately as a potential presidential contender should Clinton take a pass on the race.
The former upstate congresswoman is generally not included in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups for 2016 (much to the chagrin of EMILY’s List, which would like women other than Clinton to be added to pollsters’ lists in its push to see a “Madam President” take the oath in 2017).
But Gillibrand is increasingly on the radar screen of 2016 watchers. She was the subject of a POLITICO story last weekend, which not only included the obligatory Tracy Flick reference, but also glowing praise from former DNC Chairman and presidential contender Howard Dean, who said:
“If Hillary doesn’t run, I think there’s going to be a legitimate woman candidate, and it’s likely to be Kirsten Gillibrand. (She has) changed her positions, (but) she doesn’t do it in a way that seems to alienate her base.”
Gillibrand brushes off the 2016 talk, saying she would be the first to ask Clinton to run.
She has long-standing ties to the former first lady/ex-secretary of state, working to get Clinton elected to the US Senate in 2000, and then seeing a log-time Clinton aide, Howard Wolfson, return the favor when she ran her long shot – and eventually successful – challenge against then-GOP Rep. John Sweeney in 2006.
In that race, former President Clinton also gave Gillibrand a boost, traveling to what was then NY-20 for a last minute, pre-Election Day rally on her behalf.
But for all her “who me?” comments, Gillibrand is also cannily positioning herself to take her game to the next level. Not only has she taken a lead role on hot button issues like gay rights and sexual assault in the military, but last year, she launched a political action committee called Off the Sidelines that raised some $1 million for women candidates all across the country – some of whom are now office-holders who owe her a favor.
This year, Gillibrand is doubling down on Off the Sidelines, hoping to boost its fundraising to $2 million to use in the 2014 midterms.
And that effort is already well underway. Last night, Gillibrand sent a fundraising email to supporters that featured a “launch” video for Off the Sidelines along with a plea for contributions. (The video in question appears below).
Many observers say Gillibrand might just be the luckiest person in New York politics, thanks to her uncanny ability for being at the right place at the right time and seemingly effortlessly navigating the shoals and reefs that have tripped up many others before her.
She was able to topple Sweeney largely thanks to a well-timed leak of a 9-1-1 call made by the former congressman’s then-wife, which tipped the race in Gillibrand’s favor. (Sweeney was really his own worst enemy in that race, arguably defeating himself with a string of bad decisions).
In 2009, after President Obama tapped Clinton to be his secretary of state, then-Gov. David Paterson made the unexpected choice of Gillibrand to fill Clinton’s Senate seat.
After serving for a single term as a Blue Dog Democrat representing a GOP-dominated district, Gillibrand initially had trouble with the left – particularly when it came to same-sex marriage and gun control. But she worked hard to ingratiate herself with the Democratic Party’s liberal wing, and is now counted as a loyal champion of its causes.
Though her poll numbers have rare made it far out of the 50s, the Republican Party has been unable to find a strong candidate to defeat Gillibrand. A number of high-profile former elected officials, including ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-Gov. George Pataki, have taken a pass on challenging her.
Instead, thanks also to infighting between the Republicans and the Conservatives, she has faced weak and little-known opponents like ex-Rep. Joe DioGuardi and attorney Wendy Long, all the while honing her political and fundraising skills.
Even if Clinton doesn’t run in 2016, Gillibrand would probably be a long-shot. It’s unclear if she would actually go so far as to battle her fellow New Yorker – and one-time boss at HUD – Gov. Cuomo.
But Gillibrand watchers also know better than to underestimate her. Behind her high-pitched voice and attractive exterior (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid once called her the “hottest” member of the Senate) is a steely, aggressive and ambitious pol.
Gillibrand is only 46 years old. Even if she has to wait another eight years for her turn in the national spotlight, she’ll only be in her mid-50s when the next open White House slot will likely come up. Other aspiring Democrats – and Republicans, too – would be wise mot to count her out.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on May 3, 2013 at 2:23 pm, and is filed under 2016, Kirsten Gillibrand, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|