The Kirsten Gillibrand That I Know

Late last week, Gov David Patterson named Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton’s replacement in the U. S. Senate.  His choice, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand was a surprise pick for many.  No one seems to know a lot about her.

Fortunately for my friends here at Red State, you have a writer who lives in Gillibrand’s district that is politically active and has had a chance to meet her on several occasions. Let me start by saying, she is the best pick Conservatives in NY State could have hoped for given the circumstances. Yes, Gillibrand is a Democrat, but she leans a little bit farther to the right than party bosses would like her to and that has caused Gov. Patterson to come under more than a little heat for choosing her.

Gillibrand’s rise to political stardom began in 2006 when she defeated incumbent Republican John Sweeney for New York’s 20th Congressional District seat. Gillibrand literally came out of nowhere. Sweeney’s first shot over the bow was to accuse Gillibrand of being a carpet bagger that didn’t even live in the District. He was quickly proven wrong but as the race went on, he maintained a very comfortable lead as all Republicans in that District had enjoyed. The idea of a Democrat representing NY’s 20th was unthinkable. This after all, was the seat occupied by the legendary Gerald B. Solomon, Congressional Republican icon and former Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Gillibrand, with lots of help from the DNC (and we suspect the Clinton’s) did the impossible and defeated Sweeney handily giving the GOP it’s 16th loss of the night and officially handing control of Congress over to the Democrats. Just a week earlier, Sweeney had the lead but a police report surfaced that had the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Dept. responding to his house on a Domestic Violence complaint. That report devastated Sweeney’s chances as he was not able to recover.

To say that Gillibrand was greeted with skepticism despite her win is an understatement. It was a nasty campaign that was ranked in the most negative in the country. The talk of “two and you’re out” was running rampant.

Gillibrand didn’t even blink. She made some very impressive changes that raised some eyebrows.

First, she instituted “Congress On Your Corner” where she would actually set up shop in a grocery store or mall and listen to her constituents. You didn’t have to be a Democrat and you didn’t have to be a campaign donor. You just had to walk up, shake her hand, and speak your mind. She ALWAYS listened and she listened well. She never really told you if she agreed or disagreed, she just asked a few questions to make sure she understood your position on the issue and thanked you for stopping by.

Second, she put policies into place that gave her office the transparency that most other politicians just talk about. For starters, she placed all of her earmark requests and successes on her website for constituent scrutiny.

Kirsten is a supporter of the NRA. She voted in favor of FISA and she voted in favor of funding our troops. To say she doesn’t tow the party line is an understatement. Many Democrats had talked about running against her in a primary fight in 2010 because she leans to the right a bit too much for her. Now they are talking about the same for her newly found Senate seat. Those same Democrats are also talking about taking on Gov. Patterson, who was not elected to his post, in 2010 for daring to pick Gillibrand over Caroline Kennedy, Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo, and others.

I doubt Harry Reid is pleased with this pick. He won’t be able to count on Gillibrand for some key votes he is counting on. She has proven her independence and I’m confident she will continue that.

Most importantly, Gillibrand is FROM New York. She LIVES in New York. She did not come to New York to take a Senate seat that would give her a shot at the Presidency like her predecessor did. She will represent New York, and UPSTATE New York. Her vote will be for what she feels is best of New York, not what will be best for a Presidential campaign.

Yes, this is the best outcome we could have hoped for. We were going to get a Democrat no matter how this played out. I’m just glad that Democrat was Kirsten Gillibrand.

By the way, this gives the GOP a shot at re-capturing a House seat. I have my doubts lightning will strike twice on this one.