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The Dartmouth
June 24, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Gillibrand '88 could fill Clinton's seat

Kirsten Gillibrand '88
Kirsten Gillibrand '88

While no formal announcements have been made about who could assume Clinton's Senate role, Gillibrand is rumored to be a top contender, sources close to the governor told The New York Times and The Washington Post last week. If she is selected, Gillibrand would be the only Dartmouth graduate in the Senate, and the first College alumna to serve in the Senate.

Also on the short list are New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Thomas Suozzi, executive of New York's Nassau County, according to major media outlets.

Aides close to Paterson told The Times that the Governor hopes to fill the position with someone who is a woman, Hispanic, from upstate New York, or some combination of the three. Dartmouth government professor Linda Fowler said she thinks these factors may have a strong impact on Paterson's choice.

"I think that there is probably strong pressure from women's groups in New York to appoint a woman, given how few there are in the Senate," Fowler said. "I also think that Gillibrand has the political advantage of showing she can win and hold a Republican seat that is upstate, as opposed to the city or Long Island. Being able to attract such voters could be important in holding the seat in 2010, when whomever is appointed would have to run."

Gillibrand, a 41-year-old mother of two, represents New York's mostly rural 20th district, which includes 10 upstate counties.

Rachel McEneny, Gillibrand's communication director, declined to comment on the possibility of a Senate appointment out of respect for Clinton's decision when contacted by The Dartmouth Monday night. Paterson's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Cuomo, who served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Bill Clinton, is also considered a strong contender, but media reports have speculated that Cuomo is not interested in the Senate position.

Fowler speculated that Paterson's decision not to pick Cuomo could be attributed to other factors.

"I think that Cuomo is not uniformly admired within the Democratic Party," she said. "He is generally said to be a self-promoter and to have put his own interests ahead of the party at various times. Perhaps there is some residual ill will from some of his earlier election bids that might prevent the party from giving him such a plum."

Suozzi, who ran an unsuccessful primary challenge against former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer in 2006, has extensive political experience and is popular in the state, according to The Post. He is also being considered for New York's currently vacant Lieutenant Governor position and has close ties to top aides in the governor's office. But several political analysts have speculated that Gillibrand's geographic position in the conservative upstate regions could be more attractive than Suozzi's base in comparatively liberal Nassau County, The Times reported.

Another factor that could help Gillibrand is her fundraising ability. She has raised $4.6 million in the past two years, according to The Post.

Gillibrand also has strong bipartisan appeal and is widely popular among her constituents, according to McEneny. She has been elected to two terms in the House of Representatives, despite coming from a district with 85,000 more Republicans than Democrats. In November, she won approximately 50 percent of the Republican vote in her McCain-leaning district, McEneny added.

In May, Gillibrand was named to The Times' list of future female contenders for the presidency, which lauded her as a "young Democratic dragon slayer who won in Republican districts or swing states" and a talented fundraiser.