For most New Yorkers, the governor's likely choice for the Hillary Clinton US Senate seat, upstater Kirsten Gillibrand, is an x factor-someone not well known and a bit out of the liberal mainstream that characterizes downstate politics. As the NY Post reports this morning: "Gov. Paterson, defying the liberal wing of his Democratic Party, has chosen little-known, NRA-backed, upstate Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as New York's junior senator, it was learned last night."
The Gillibrand selection probably sets up a bruising primary next year, with Representative Carolyn McCarthy sating she just might challenge the Paterson selection: "Sources said "at least five" members of the state's Democratic congressional delegation called Paterson to protest the possibility of Gillibrand's selection. One, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of Nassau County, even threatened a primary challenge. Gillibrand faces a special election in 2010."
Still, from our vantage, Gillibrand is a breathe of fresh air-someone who is from the moderate wing of the party and appears to be a maverick. As the NY Times points out: "Ms. Gillibrand is largely unknown to New Yorkers statewide, but is considered an up-and-coming and forceful lawmaker in her district and has gained considerable attention from Democratic leaders in Washington." Her decision to oppose the bank bailout certainly caught our eye-and is an indication that she not someone who will meekly follow any part orthodoxy."
What this means is that the senate designee must begin at once to start a campaign for the seat that was handed to her-and the long knives will be out from those who were passed over-and from those who feel that she's not "representative" of the views of most New Yorkers; particularly on the issue of gun control. As the Times reminds us: "If Mr. Paterson was hoping to quiet the tumult over the selection process by picking Ms. Gillibrand, there were indications that he may not get his wish. Ms. Gillibrand, who has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, is controversial among some of the party’s more liberal leaders downstate."
So let the process begin, and if McCarthy or, don't laugh, Scott Stringer want to challenge Gillibrand-and by extension the governor-let them. It should make for an interesting campaign. But from what we have seen so far, Gillibrand is potentially just the right kind of senator that New York needs in this time of crisis.