January 24, 2009


Senate Choice: Folksy Centrist Born to Politics (MICHAEL POWELL and RAYMOND HERNANDEZ, 1/24/09, NY Times)

She won her first elected position in 2006, defeating a four-term incumbent in a traditionally Republican district that extends from the Hudson Valley flatlands to the mountainous North Country. Then, adopting the Charles E. Schumer permanent campaign-style of politicking, Ms. Gillibrand (pronounced JILL-uh-brand) became a ubiquitous and studiously folksy presence at malls and county fairs, racked up $4.6 million in donations — much of it from corporate political action committees — and swept 65 percent of the vote this fall.

In Washington, the new Democratic majority handed her two plum committee assignments, Agriculture and Armed Services, and she has a political portfolio not easily charted along a left-right axis. She earned a 100 percent approval rating from the National Rifle Association while also being showered with love and dollars by women’s groups like Emily’s List; she favors the English language-only movement as well as abortion rights; she voted in July 2007 to withdraw troops from Iraq and, this fall, against the Wall Street bailout bill.

Ms. Gillibrand’s political education took shape around her childhood dinner table. Her father, Douglas P. Rutnik, is a prominent state lobbyist who once dated Zenia Mucha, a senior aide to former Gov. George E. Pataki. Her grandmother Polly Noonan played a sophisticated brand of machine politics as a close adviser to the legendary Erastus Corning, mayor of Albany; Ms. Gillibrand has described licking stamps for campaign fliers as a child and listening to all that delicious political talk.

“What I admired so much about her was her passion,” Ms. Gillibrand said in a stemwinder of a speech Friday thanking political mentors as well as her husband, parents, grandparents, siblings, children and local supporters — many of them by name. “I thought, ‘Someday I may serve, someday I may be part of this.’ ”

In a way, Ms. Gillibrand began running as far back as the late 1990s, carefully piling up chits, according to Sarah Hoit, a friend from Dartmouth College who worked in the White House at the time. “She came to me and said, ‘Hey, I’d really like to run for political office.’ ” Ms. Hoit said. “We started giving her some political contacts.”

Ms. Hoit added: “She is a very careful planner.”

...the GOP should nominate her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 24, 2009 1:33 PM
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