Gillibrand '88 to focus on fundraising

by Hannah Kuhar | 10/6/09 10:00pm

With her most competitive opponent having dropped out of the race, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand '88, D-N.Y., seems well positioned for reelection heading into the November primary. Her campaign has focused primarily on fundraising and developing new techniques to meet more members of her constituency, Gillibrand spokesperson James Rahm said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Although several Democratic challengers remain on the primary ballot, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who exited the race in August, was widely considered Gillibrand's last viable opponent. There are currently no Republican contenders for the seat.

As of June 30, Gillibrand had raised $3.8 million in contributions, Rahm said.

Gillibrand has historically focused her campaign efforts on fundraising, drawing on her own networking skills, government professor Linda Fowler said.

"Gillibrand has a history of raising a lot of money she was a fundraiser herself even before politics," government professor Joseph Bafumi said.

Gillibrand has also worked to strengthen and broaden her campaign network beyond her former congressional district to cover all of New York state, Rahm said. Gillibrand represented a more conservative district of New York in the House of Representatives before being appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January. Gillibrand will have to appeal to a much larger, more liberal voting pool than the congressional district she represented in the 2006 and 2008 House of Representative elections, according to Dartmouth government professor Dean Lacy.

Since her appointment in January, Gillibrand has traveled to many areas of New York including Long Island, the Southern Tier and upstate New York to meet as many constituents and business owners as possible before the election, Rahm said.

"Right now, Gillibrand is not putting a whole lot of attention on politics in Washington," Rahm said. "Politics will come eventually, but now her focus is on New York families."

In an effort to connect with her constituency, Gillibrand has attended 13 "Senate at your Supermarket" events, where she interacts with New York families and business owners at local grocery stores, Rahm said. While there has been no Republican contender for the seat since Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., dropped out of the race on Aug. 31, political analysts have speculated that some prominent New York Republicans, included former Gov. George Patacki, may seek election, Bafumi said. King cited Gillibrand's superior financial resources and strong public support as a Democratic candidate in a primarily Democratic state in his decision to withdraw.

Patacki told CNN on Sept. 21 that he believes he can afford to enter the race late because of his strong existing support base.

"Given that it's a midterm election, it will probably be more of a Republican year," Bafumi said. "On average, you would expect that the party outside the White House would do better in the midterm elections."

Lacy also said that Gillibrand may fall victim to the "midterm loss" phenomenon, when constituents seek to balance the party in control of the executive branch by voting to fill Congress with members of the opposite party.