Instantly opening a rift among New York Democrats, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand – a little-known, pro-gun Democrat from a rural Republican district – won appointment Friday to the Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Gov. David Paterson announced his choice a day after presumed front-runner Caroline Kennedy – a woman with considerably more star power but less experience – mysteriously dropped out of contention in an embarrassing turn of events that touched off sniping between the governor and the Kennedy camp.
Gillibrand, at 42, will be the youngest member of the Senate and one of 17 women in the chamber. The second-term congresswoman will assume the seat once held by Kennedy’s uncle Robert F. Kennedy as well as by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
“For many in New York state, this is the first time you’ve heard my name and you don’t know much about me,” said Gillibrand (pronounced JILL-ih-brand). “Over the next two years, you will get to know me. And, more importantly, I will get to know you.”
Before the governor even took the podium to introduce Gillibrand, anti-gun crusader Rep. Carolyn McCarthy said she would challenge Gillibrand in the Democratic primary next year, or find someone who would. Gillibrand has a 100 percent voting record with the National Rifle Association.
McCarthy, a Long Island Democrat who ran for Congress after her husband was shot to death and her son wounded in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road massacre, said someone with such a record should not be the next senator from New York.
“The majority of New Yorkers believe in trying to reduce gun violence,” she said.
Her complaint was echoed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent who has been one of the nation’s most vocal gun control advocates. In a statement, the mayor noted his “strong disagreement with one area of her record as a member of Congress: illegal guns.”
In addition to opening up vast policy differences within the Democratic Party–and thus augmenting the chances for party fractiousness–Governor Paterson appears to have succeeded in turning much of New York’s Democratic political establishment against him personally. As the story indicates, Andrew Cuomo refused to attend the announcement of Gillibrand’s appointment, despite the fact that Gillibrand once worked for him. This, of course, is the culmination of a process that lacked dignity, discipline and any semblance of seriousness; the Governor treated the duty to appoint a new Senator as an opportunity to grandstand and showboat in a way that caused the entire process to look silly and comical.
Gov. Paterson rapped Caroline Kennedy at a private event the night before he tapped Kirsten Gillibrand for the Senate, telling guests Kennedy had been “nasty” to him and shown “disrespect” with how she bowed out, attendees told The Post.
The governor’s attack came just hours after his office issued a statement wishing her well and disavowing quotes from a source close to him who had told The Post Kennedy had never been in true contention for the seat and was “mired” in personal issues.
She lost him at “hello.”
Gov. Paterson was completely underwhelmed with Caroline Kennedy from their first conversation about Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat, a source close to the governor said.
Paterson’s thinking has become clearer in the two days since Kennedy withdrew her name for the Senate seat that Friday went to upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Hudson).
Friends said Paterson was adamant that she was never going to be appointed, even though she was considered the front-runner.
Paterson was turned off when Kennedy first called him and asked if she “could” be considered for the seat.
By asking if she could, rather than saying she wanted to be considered, Paterson immediately felt she wasn’t really interested, the source said.
In meetings, the governor and his aides decided she had no political depth, the source said.
I ask this question seriously: Is there any way that we can keep this story going? Because I would really like it if we could.