What Does the Appointment of Gillibrand do for Paterson?

by Elaine Rivera

Today, Governor David Paterson selected Kirsten Gillibrand, a little known Congresswoman who represents parts of the Hudson Valley and upstate New York, to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. His choice has drawn mixed reviews from around the state with liberal democrats expressing alarm at Gillibrand's conservative stances on some issues, like gun control. Among liberal Democrats there's an actual howl as one of the newspaper headlines put it.

Gillibrand changed her mind - it seems like overnight - on the issue of gay marriage which she says she now supports. And at today's news conference she extended an olive branch to Long Island Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy - whose husband was killed in the Long Island Railroad massacre and is one of the staunchest gun-control advocates in Congress. Gillibrand says she's looking forward to working with McCarthy on making sure illegal guns don't get in the hands of criminals. But a spokesman for McCarthy says they're not buying it. McCarthy says she's very disturbed by the selection and is considering a run against Gillibrand in 2010. The NRA has given a 100 percent approval rating to Gillibrand for her voting record on guns.

What does the appointment of Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate do for Governor Paterson? Clearly, he has to do work to placate his liberal base. And he has to smooth some ruffled feathers with other prominent candidates such as Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Attorney General Cuomo. But on the plus side, Paterson made a very expedient choice. He selected a woman - who will remain the only woman in a statewide office. Just as importantly, he selected someone from upstate. Currently, all the statewide offices are held by downstate politicians. Gillibrand's considered a rising star in the Democratic party. She has those visceral qualities important for a politician. She comes across as very approachable.

It was surprising to see who was at today's news conference and who wasn't. There was Al D'Amato and Former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor and is also a lobbyist. Her father, Doug Rutnik, was also there, and by coincidence, he's a major Republican lobbyist in Albany. And there was Senator Chuck Schumer who apparently really likes Gillibrand and is willing to mentor her.

Mayor Bloomberg was not there. His camp advocated for Caroline Kennedy to get the Senate seat. Two others thought to be on Paterson's short list were not there -- Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo -- but they did issue brief, congratulatory statements about the Governor's choice of Congresswoman Gillibrand.