Friday, January 23, 2009

Paterson to name upstate Blue Dog Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, to Senate (well, maybe)

Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand has reason to be smiling

Lots of reports out tonight (like one in the New York Daily News) that New York Governor David Paterson will appoint upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (pronounced JILL-a-brand) to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. Still, reporters seem to be hedging their forecasts after weeks of being wrong about Dame Caroline Kennedy of Camelot having a lock on the appointment. The New York Times, for example, noted that some in-the-know sources believed that Gillibrand was the frontrunner, while others thought Paterson might be pulling another head fake.

If it's Gillibrand, I will eat a little crow myself for predicting a week ago that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo would get the nod, because otherwise Prince Andrew would wage a primary against Paterson for the Governorship in 2010. I still think that is a distinct possibility. But Paterson has been under a lot of pressure all along to name a woman to replace Mrs. Clinton, a fact that gave Caroline Kennedy the opening to offer herself. Also, it's notable that all along, Paterson has said consistently that he was looking at women and upstaters to ensure a representative Democratic ticket.

Gillibrand, 42, is a lawyer who once worked for Cuomo at HUD and raised money for Hillary Clinton. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2006 when she took on and defeated a GOP incumbent in a heavily Republican district. She ran a tough campaign and demonstrated that she could raise millions of dollars. A member of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate Democrats, she's raised hackles among some of her colleagues for staking out some centrist positions and, in particular, her pro-NRA opposition to gun control. A couple of her downstate more liberal colleagues are already grumbling about running in the primary against her next year, if she gets the Senate slot. On the other hand, she's close to Hillary Clinton and is being championed by Senator Chuck Schumer.

Of course, in addition to her being a woman, it is precisely her upstate appeal and Blue Dog credentials that would give the 2010 Democratic ticket -- which will have at least four downstate men -- some added breadth. She's also smart, tough, young, attractive with two young children (one a baby born last May!), and knows how to raise dough.

We'll know by late morning today.

UPDATE -- At a mid-day event, Paterson appointed Gillibrand.

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