Challenging an "Unelected Junior Senator"

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Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC.

Kirsten Gillibrand, currently serving as New York's Junior Senator, will face her first statewide election this Tuesday. Gillibrand assumed office in January 2009 after being appointed by Governor Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton's seat, after she became Obama's Secretary of State. As she gears up for this year's special election, Gillibrand is trying to convince New Yorkers upstate and downstate that she deserves to complete the Senate term that ends in January 2013.

Gillibrand has garnered a lot of big name support and endorsements, but Gail Goode, her opponent in next Tuesday's Democratic primary, says there's no reason Gillibrand should get such easy access to a Senate seat. Goode is a lawyer and deputy borough chief in New York City’s Tort Unit.

"We know that our junior unelected Senator was appointed by an accidental Governor and that New Yorkers should have a choice, they should have a choice of a real Democrat, and I believe that I am that real Democrat."

Both candidates were guests on The Brian Lehrer Show today, discussing Gillibrand's record on gun control, marriage equality, the TARP bank bailout bill, the economy, and of course, the proposed Islamic community center and mosque in lower Manhattan.

So what should voters think about Gillibrand's 100 percent approval rating from the NRA when she started her term? Gillebrand says was representing a different constituency when she was in Congress:

"In the House, I represented a very rural district, one that didn't have a lot of big cities. It also didn't suffer from the level of gang violence, gun violence and gun crimes that other parts of the state suffer from. Now that I represent the whole state, and 20 million people, and many cities and areas that do suffer from significant gun crime, I've really focused my attention on how I can reduce gun crime and how I can crack down on gun trafficking in particular."

Gillibrand noted that she recently received an endorsement from The Brady Campaign, a leading gun-control advocacy organization. She told Brian it wasn't that she hadn't cared about the gun problems affecting New York City when she was a Representative, it was just that they didn't really affect her district.

Goode begged to differ, saying it was "disengenous" for Gillibrand to say that gun control is not just an issue for cities, call it an issue for the entire United States.

And where do the candidates stand on Park 51, that local community board issue, that has blossomed into a huge national fracas? Here's what Gillebrand had to say:

"The community board made a decision to support the mosque. Many people who lived through 9/11 are on the community board so I support their decision. I also support those who are looking for solutions...If the developers and those who want to build the mosque would look for another location I will support that. I think it's something that could bring the community together."

Goode, who is presenting herself as the more progressive candidate, was much clearer in her support for the project, saying "This is not a mosque. It is a cultural center. It is supposed to bring people together."

The one issue that the candidates agreed on was the need to build better infrastructure, in particular high speed rail, and develop more renewable energy. They did not talk about how they would pay for it.

Well. What future Senator wouldn't want to ride high speed rail between New York City and Albany?