In settling on U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand from upstate New York to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate, Gov. David Paterson appears to have rung the bell for the race to fill the seat on a permanent basis. Gillibrand is described as moderate to liberal, having first won election to the House in 2006 from a previously Republican district near Albany. She supports Second Amendment gun rights for individuals and middle-class tax cuts and opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants. Yet she’s also considered a protege of New York’s other senator, Charles Schumer, who’s definitely a liberal.
Depending on what you read, Gillibrand either was Paterson’s choice for some time — the governor believing popular pick Caroline Kennedy wasn’t ready for prime time — or moved to the top of the heap when Kennedy first gave hints of bowing out earlier this week.
More certain is that Gillibrand’s got her work cut out for her to keep the seat. She must run in a special election in 2010 to complete Clinton’s term and then again in 2012 for a full six-year term of her own. New York Democrats who weren’t bashful about opposing Kennedy probably aren’t any more sanguine about a relative newcomer landing the plum. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed in the 1993 Long Island Railroad massacre, says she’ll challenge Gillibrand because of her support for gun rights. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has interest in higher office, as do a number of other Democrats on New York’s congressional delegation. Republicans also may see Gillibrand as vulnerable. Rep. Peter King is known to be interested in running. And, they’re off!