Gillibrand Helps House Candidate -- and Herself
By Ben Pershing
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is wading into the special election race to fill her vacant House seat, cutting an ad for her potential successor and possibly boosting her own political stock in the process.
Gov. David Paterson (D) sparked controversy in the Empire State by elevating Gillibrand from her Albany-based House seat to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Paterson's move drew criticism both because he snubbed Caroline Kennedy, who openly campaigned for the seat, and because many state Democrats -- particularly those from New York City -- believe Gillibrand is too conservative on issues like gun rights to represent the party well. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy is considering mounting a Democratic primary challenge to Gillibrand for that reason.
Gillibrand has been seeking to assuage those concerns and reach out to her fellow Democrats statewide, and she's also trying keep her old House seat in the blue column. The district leans toward the GOP, but recent polls have put venture capitalist Scott Murphy (D) within single digits of state Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco (R). Now Gillibrand has cut an ad for Murphy in which she describes him as "the only candidate with proven business experience" who will "never back down in protecting upstate New York":
If Murphy can win a race in which he was initially pegged as an underdog, Gillibrand can brag that her support helped put him over the top, and that she has the political chops to be competitive in 2010. If Murphy loses, critics will charge that she is in no position to run a statewide campaign if she can't even keep her home district Democratic.
Helping Murphy isn't the only thing Gillibrand has been doing to try to help herself. She's also done some old-fashioned, retail politicking. Yesterday, she announced that the federal government was giving half a billion dollars in grants to New York for weatherization and energy efficiency projects. The day before, she made a stop at the Bronx Zoo to talk about job creation, and the day before that, she bragged that she was co-sponsoring legislation to end automatic pay raises for members of Congress. Gillibrand may still have a ways to go to convince the rest of her party that she was the right choice to fill Clinton's seat, but she won't be accused of not trying.
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