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Gillibrand's Fundraising Haul (And What It Means)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (right) is trying to scare off primary opponents with her fundraising. Photo by Mario Tama of Getty.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced this morning that she raised $2.3 million for her 2010 election, a show of force aimed at discouraging potential primary opponents from challenging her.

"I am humbled and grateful at this outpouring of support, and I can't thank you enough for your early commitment to my campaign," Gillibrand wrote in an email message to supporters this morning.

Gillibrand's haul is all the more amazing when you consider that she was appointed to the seat vacated by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton by Gov. David Paterson on Jan. 23 -- roughly three weeks into the first fundraising quarter of the year.

It's no secret that Gillibrand is among the best fundraisers in the Democratic party. In her first run for the House in 2006, she raised more than $2.5 million and followed that up by raising a stunning $4.7 million in 2008.

The question now before Gillibrand is whether her strong financial showing convinces her potential primary opponents or Rep. Peter King, the lone Republican looking seriously at the contest, to take a pass.

The two most-mentioned primary possibilities are Reps. Carolyn McCarthy and Steve Israel. Rep. Jose Serrano is also a possibility but would be an extreme long shot if he ran.

McCarthy, an ardent gun control advocate, has been extremely critical of Gillibrand's record on guns in Congress and has said she is likely to challenge the appointed senator in next year's primary.

McCarthy, however, is in a very weak cash position -- ending 2008 with less than $190,000 in the bank -- and has never shown a real dedication to raising the millions she would need to run a serious primary campaign in a cost-prohibitive state like New York.

Israel, on the other hand, is a proven fundraiser who could pose a major threat to Gillibrand should he decide to run. Israel ended 2008 with $1.28 million in the bank after raising $1.6 million for a non-competitive reelection race in his Long Island-area 2nd district. Since being elected in 2000, Israel has regularly raised more than $1 million for each of his races.

An Israel-Gillibrand primary would also be intriguing from a geographic perspective as Upstate and Long Island -- the two swing areas in any statewide election for Democrats -- would be directly competing against one another.

"An Israel vs. Gillibrand primary will be a race to watch," said one New York Democratic source. "The shootings in Binghamton highlighted Gillibrand's Achilles heels -- immigration and gun safety issues. Steve Israel is a smart politician and if he gets into this race he will be relentless in reminding New York Democrats that Gillibrand hasn't been there on those issues."

Israel continues to seriously consider the race, according to those close to him, and one House aide who closely follows the New York delegation said he was inching toward the race last week.

Gillibrand's first quarter take may well hasten that decision as Israel will need to significantly ramp up his fundraising operation -- and quickly -- if he wants to be competitive with Gillibrand next year.

Gillibrand is doing everything she can to scare away primary challengers. Her first quarter take likely weeds out any of the less serious candidates from the race (they can run but they're not likely to gain much traction ). But, Israel remains a real possibility and, if he runs, Gillibrand will be in for a very competitive race.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 6, 2009; 12:26 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: Grading Obama's Trip


I am proud to be an American again after eight years in the crapper. Obama's trip restores us as the leader of the free world rather than a drunk fifteen year old waiving a gun in the world's face.

Posted by: bradcpa | April 7, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Drindle, Mark, maybe the motto for a chain of drive-in urgent care clinics?

Posted by: malis | April 6, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

What a great way to get rid of your political rivals.. show them the money!

Posted by: newbeeboy | April 6, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: scrivener50 | April 6, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

where do you see 'achilles heals' mark?

I see more and more of that kind of error but for some reason that one reminds me of a burma shave sign.

Posted by: drindl | April 6, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

"Achilles' heel" refers to a part of the warrior's anatomy that was vulnerable. I have no idea what "Achilles Heals" means.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 6, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

IMGoph, glad to see someone else is out there correcting all the "Binghamptons" of the world, as I am guessing this column originally had it spelled. Apparently no one takes a second to check a map.

Posted by: BurtReynolds | April 6, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Cillizza needs a Dem source who isn't a corrupt hack.

Before she was selected, Gillibrand supported our laws. However, right after the selection she pandered to those who support illegal activity in order to obtain race-based political power:

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | April 6, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

that "new york democratic source" needs to learn how to spell BINGHAMTON!

Posted by: IMGoph | April 6, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

You're very welcome, Chris :)! I enjoyed the article and will be much looking forward to this primary.

Posted by: infidelsshiver | April 6, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for catching...McCarthy is a VERY well known gun control's been corrected in the post.


Posted by: Chris_Cillizza | April 6, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

'McCarthy, an ardent gun rights advocate,'

I think that must be a blip - Carolyn McCarthy is known best of all for being pro gun control.

Posted by: infidelsshiver | April 6, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

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