Will Kirsten Gillibrand Split the New York Democratic Party?

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It seems that New York Governor David Paterson will announce today that he is appointing second term House member Kirsten Gillibrand to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate. No sooner had the news hit the wires than talk began about a revolt in the New York Democratic Party over Gillibrand’s blue dog credentials and support for 2nd Amendment rights.

Representative Carolyn McCarthy of Long Island, a staunch supporter of gun-control laws, said in an interview Thursday that she would challenge a fellow Democrat, Representative Kirsten E. Gillibrand, if Gov. David A. Paterson names Ms. Gillibrand to the Senate.

With Caroline Kennedy having withdrawn from consideration as a possible successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the governor is said to be leaning toward selecting Ms. Gillibrand, a congresswoman from the Albany area. But her support of the National Rifle Association and co-sponsorship of bills like H.R. 4900 have outraged Ms. McCarthy, who was elected to Congress after her husband was killed by a deranged gunman in a 1993 massacre on the Long Island Rail Road.

Paterson clearly tried to be a bit cagey in this selection.

First, he sought to solve the Utica Problem which Caroline Kennedy posed by appointing an upstate politician. (Though taking somebody from the capitol region may not be what many supporters had in mind.) Also, by picking Ms. Gillibrand, Paterson manages to keep the quota of women in the Senate on an even keel after Hillary’s departure. If he wasn’t going to appoint an African-American like Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, she was likely viewed as a safe pick.

That might turn out to backfire with the Governor’s own party, though, as the article above suggests. Gillibrand is a blue dog all the way, with more than NRA support on her record. Considering that she’s the first Democrat to hold that particular seat in over 40 years, this isn’t terribly surprising.

Carolyn McCarthy doesn’t really seem all that likely to mount a serious primary challenge in 2010. She’s already 65 years old and her Long Island background coupled with her seriously left-leaning bent won’t win her a lot of support upstate. The threat itself, however, sends a signal of its own. There are other gun control advocates who may well see Gillibrand as a weak choice and mount a more serious challenge. All of this may bode well for moderate Republicans like Pete King, who is already mulling-over a run at the Senate seat himself. If his opponents get bogged down in internecine warfare, he might well be the first New York Republican Senator in nearly twenty years.

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  • surakmn

    Setting the stage for the first Republican Senator from New York in nearly twenty years? You have heard of Alphonse D';Amato, I presume.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    You haven't really distinguished yourself as a prognosticator on this particular Senate seat.

  • mikeyes

    Why is Senator Webb (who holds the same views, basically, as she does) praised and a Senator Gillibrand is the spawn of Hell? It seems to me that the Democratic party is the party of the big tent these days, by default if for no other reason. This is one of the reasons that Barak Obama is President. (One of the others being that the Republicans are insane.)

    If Senator Gillibrand is a terrible senator, we will find out in a few years. If not, then the centrist-left direction of the Democrats will probably mean more control of Senate and House, not less in the mid-term elections.

    Which is better, ideological purity or political power? You might ask the Republicans how they are doing before you answer that one.