From classic lib to Blue Dog: Paterson picks Gillibrand

posted at 8:25 am on January 23, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

After all the talk of dynasties, David Paterson wound up going for substance over celebrity in his pick to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate.  Instead of Caroline Kennedy or Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor selected Representative Kirsten Gillibrand for the seat, and her celebrity quotient isn’t the only big difference between the two earlier frontrunners.  Gillibrand will fall firmly in the Blue Dog camp, moving the seat more to the Right:

Gov. David Paterson has picked Democratic U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill New York’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, an aide to the governor said early Friday, a day after Caroline Kennedy abruptly withdrew from consideration.

Gillibrand, a second-term lawmaker from upstate New York, will be named to fill the seat vacated when Hillary Rodham Clinton resigned to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because an announcement hadn’t been made. An announcement was scheduled for later Friday. …

Others in the field, led by more senior politicians, including U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, criticized Gillibrand as recently as Thursday evening, saying her support of more conservative issues such as gun ownership rights was out of step with most New York Democrats.

But Gillibrand (JIL’-uh-brand) is a proven vote-getter in an eastern New York district that sprawls from the mid-Hudson Valley to north of Albany. She defeated a long-term Republican incumbent in 2006 and won re-election last year by a wide margin.

How conservative is this new Blue Dog?  Gillibrand has a membership in the NRA and she voted against the $700 billion bailout bill.  Some conservatives would argue that alone makes her a better choice than some Republicans for the new position.  Losing her voice in the House might sting just a little, but her district will likely replace her with a representative with similar views, and it represents a quantum leap forward for the Senate seat.

Conservatives lucked out with this surprise appointment.  Certainly Gillibrand will support much of the Democratic agenda, but she has the right instincts on fiscal and gun policy, and we assumed that we would get a carbon copy of Schumer all along.

Gillibrand’s selection comes as a surprise, though, for New York.  Both Kennedy and Cuomo represent the New Left in thinking, solidly of the same cast politically and close to New York’s other Senator, Chuck Schumer.  Why would Paterson select a Blue Dog?  Michael Gormley of the AP suggests that Paterson wants to improve his standing with upstate New York, and that he might have what became known as a “Utica problem” during Sweet Caroline’s disastrous bid for the seat.  He needed to be seen as someone who pays attention to voters outside the five boroughs of the Big Apple, and Gillibrand broadens his appeal in time for his 2010 run for governor on his own steam.

I’d expect Paterson to get a serious primary challenge after this appointment.  Democrats will come gunning for him from the Left, starting with Emily’s List.  Cuomo himself might look for some payback by running for his father’s old seat.

Update: Jazz Shaw believes that the state Democratic Party might fracture on the special election for the Senate seat in 2010 as well.  It could be a banner year for Republicans in New York.

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Here is the link to her NRLC page, if anyone cares. Go to the Votes tab for the info I mentioned. Furhter note: her bio says she’s Catholic? Does that change things or make them worse, in this context?

JackOfClubs on January 23, 2009 at 4:41 PM

U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy criticized Gillibrand as recently as Thursday evening, saying her support of more conservative issues such as gun ownership rights was out of step with most New York Democrats.

Yet another Democrat who feels that a legislator doesn’t support all the voters — just the ones who vote for them.

Paul_in_NJ on January 23, 2009 at 5:52 PM

Gillenbrand’s not a babe like Nancy Pelosi

orfannkyl on January 23, 2009 at 6:35 PM

Me Too! Ha Ha Kirsten seems to be a NY Libs worst nightmare. A Sarah Palin clone. Sarah is a lifetime member of the NRA too

sonnyspats1 on January 23, 2009 at 6:48 PM

Good choice

Kevin in Southern Illinois on January 23, 2009 at 6:48 PM

Me too Palin Matrix revisited!

sonnyspats1 on January 23, 2009 at 6:50 PM

She’s a hottie, too.

joe_doufu on January 23, 2009 at 8:36 PM

It might make the dem primary in 2010 for the seat a lib conservative free for all. More popcorn munching, and if the libs split the primary vote, Gillebrand may wind up the winner. She might even be the more conservative than the GOP nominee for Senate. That would be a bonus. Hope she gives Harry Reid agita like she gave to Peelousi.

I feel the same way. This is going to be sooooooo much fun watching the left of the Dem party collapse. I was reading somewhere where a political analyst said the Republicans should target the Dems in congress, rather than Obama, and he was right on the money. They’re the ones that have been trashing Bush for 8 years, so they’re getting their just desserts. It would be sweet justice to see Charlie Rangel, John Murtha, and the whole lot of ’em kicked out on their keister. Sweet poetic justice.

NathanG on January 23, 2009 at 8:57 PM

For a Democrat, she is more moderate on balance when you factor conservative on guns and against the bailout.

However, on several other issues including abortion, I’m sure she is securely on the left.

I’m in a hotel on the way home from the March for Life after holding up the “TeamSarah” banner. Gilly is NO SARAH.

We’ll take what measly scraps we can get for now.

And YES, the strategy to run against the Dems in the 2010 elections is the way to focus. Let’s not waste too much resources on attacking Obama for now unless he hands us the noose like FOCA, card check, or (un)Fairness Doctrine.

Sapwolf on January 23, 2009 at 10:02 PM

Having lived in NY, once you get out of the city (and New Paltz)there are many “real” Americans in NY state. perhaps we can proselytize Kirsten.Email Gov. Patterson for having good sense.

obdurate on January 23, 2009 at 10:56 PM

She is a good woman. Might be very good.

sheebe on January 24, 2009 at 1:37 PM