Before the Kennedy diversion, speculation among the politicos in Albany was that second term Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand was the leading candidate to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate. And so it ultimately seems to have gone. Governor Paterson is set to announce that she is his choice this morning.
Gillibrand is a solid pick. She is one of those moderate/liberal Democrats with a few conservative policy accessories that Rahm Emmanuel and N.Y. Senator Charles Schumer famously recruited to win GOP seats in the past two elections. She did just that. She represents the upper Hudson Valley and greater Albany area–which had previously been solidly Republican. She is a woman–which was an inevitable consideration for a seat abdicated by a woman. She is young. Democrats think she could win a statewide race fairly easily. Republicans worry that she could. Considering that the N.Y. State GOP is entirely moribund, has no actual candidates for office who are even remotely appealling to the average urban Republican voter, and seems entirely clueless about how to recover any of the major House or Senate seats, or the governorship, which are now almost uniformly held by Democrats–they should be worried.
Gillibrand is a Second Amendment supporter. Her website talks about growing up in a hunting family, and shows her rather discreetly holding a shotgun over her arm. No moose carcasses in evidence, alas, or reason to believe she still participates. But she understands the symbolic value of pushing that position hard–she’s sponsored pro-hunter recognition stuff (is that really legislation?). She’s pro-middle class tax cuts, and in favor of adding to the family tax credits. She wants the southern border secured, and no amnesty for illegals–which is her other big departure from most N.Y. Democrats. For the Democratic establishment, these positions are a mixed blessing. They’re helpful with upstate voters of both parties, but potentially poisonous with New York city liberal voters, who are also expected to find her support for no-strings funding of the Iraq war during the past two years offensive. She’ll get their votes, but money is a bigger question.
Gillibrand is said to be a disciple of Schumer–which is never a good sign, domestic policy-wise. No idea if she pays her taxes; her young sons are in day care, which obviates any nanny problem. If you are a Republican in New York, alas, she is as good as it’s likely to get any time soon. For this, I suppose, we must be grateful.