Gillibrand's Fundraising Haul (And What It Means)
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.
April 6, 2009; 12:26 PM ET
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