Friday, January 23, 2009

Paterson names Gillibrand to Senate

My EDGE story on Gov. David Paterson's decision to appoint Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton.

After weeks of speculation, New York Gov. David Paterson has named Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Clinton.

Paterson and Gillibrand appeared at an Albany press conference earlier today alongside senior U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver [D-Manhattan] and other leading Democrats.

"I will represent the many diverse views and voices of the entire state," Gillibrand said.

This announcement caps off nearly two months of speculation after President Barack Obama tapped Hillary Clinton as his choice for Secretary of State. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and openly lesbian United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten were reportedly on the governor’s short list. Caroline Kennedy had also campaigned for the seat until she abruptly withdrew her name earlier this week.

Gillibrand, who represents a traditionally Republican district that includes parts of the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the Hudson Valley, has backed a number of LGBT-specific pieces of legislation since she was first elected to Congress in 2006. These include the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The Empire State Pride Agenda released a statement shortly after news of Paterson’s choice broke that said Gillibrand expressed her support of marriage for same-sex couples to executive director Alan Van Capelle. She further indicated this support following Paterson’s announcement.

"While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues," Van Capelle said.

Albany-based transgender activist Moonhawk River Stone applauded Gillibrand.

"She’s bright and capable," he said. "She’s a friend to our community."

NARAL Pro-Choice New York also endorsed Gillibrand, but some downstate LGBT activists and politicos remain skeptical. Matthew Carlin, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, expressed doubt over Gillibrand’s record. He also criticized her National Rifle Association endorsement and her vote against the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

"She’s a lot more conservative than Hillary," Carlin said. "It makes sense to replace Hillary with someone of similar leanings."

Stone conceded Gillibrand is more conservative on some issues than other New York Democrats, but he said he remains optimistic she will represent New York well in the Senate.

"Candidates that can take an endorsement from the NRA can vote for a trans-inclusive ENDA," Stone said. "We have to be mature enough as a community to understand that."

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