Although Caroline Kennedy's rather disorderly withdrawal from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate may have overshadowed New York Governor David Paterson's actual choice, Representative Kirsten Gillibrand is not someone who stays in the background. The ambitious mother of two fulfills two criteria Paterson reportedly had in mind: she's a woman, and she's an Upstater with deep family ties to the Albany area.
42 years old, married to venture-capital consultant Jonathan Gillibrand. They have two sons, ages 5 years and 6 months. According to the New York Times, Gillibrand's colleagues in the House gave her a standing ovation for working until the day she gave birth to her younger son. She reportedly took the Washington Metro to work every day with her elder son, dropping him off at the congressional day-care center on her way to work.
A native of the Albany region, she is the daughter of two area attorneys. Her parents are divorced; her father Douglas Rutnik is an Albany lobbyist and a former public defender who had a longtime romantic relationship with powerful public-relations maven Zenia Mucha. Rutnik also has ties to many influential Republicans and Democrats in New York State and has drawn press attention for a real estate investment with New York senate leader Joe Bruno, who was indicted on Jan. 23 on charges that he defrauded the public while in office. Gillibrand's maternal grandmother Polly Noonan founded the Albany Democratic Women's Club and was a close confidante of longtime Albany mayor Erastus Corning.
Endorsed by the National Rifle Association, from which she has a 100% rating.
Twice voted against the $700 billion TARP bailout bill and was the only Representative from New York to vote for the May 2007 funding bill for the Iraq war. She has described her congressional voting record as "one of the most conservative in the state."
Despite reports that she is not supportive of gay marriage and her earlier position that she supported only civil unions for gay couples, the Empire State Pride Agenda endorsed her appointment and said she assured the group that she "supports marriage equality for same-sex couples."
Attended the private all-girls Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y., and was an avid tennis player. She majored in Asian studies and studied Chinese at Dartmouth, where she graduated magna cum laude. She received a law degree from UCLA in 1991 after completing an internship at the United Nations Crime Prevention Branch in Austria.
After law school, clerked for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge who had been appointed by Ronald Reagan, according to the New York Daily News. She was later employed by a private law firm, where she spent time working on behalf of client Philip Morris. Altria, as Philip Morris is now called, donated $17,000 to Gillibrand's 2008 campaign. During the Clinton Administration, Gillibrand worked as a lawyer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Andrew Cuomo. She later returned to private practice, working for the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner.
First won elected office in 2006, when she beat a four-term incumbent Republican 53% to 47% for a seat in Congress representing an area from the Upper Hudson Valley north into the Adirondacks. The 2006 race got personal and nasty: a domestic-violence-related police report about her opponent was leaked late in the race, accusations flew that Gillibrand actually lived in a New York City apartment, and both sides ran numerous negative TV commercials. Gillibrand was re-elected in 2008 with 62% of the vote more than $10 million having been raised for that contest. Her district, the 20th, is heavily Republican.
Has direct ties to Hillary Clinton, having helped raise money for Clinton's 2000 Senate bid and later earning Clinton's endorsement when Gillibrand ran for office in 2006. New York's other Senator, Charles Schumer, reportedly was a staunch advocate for Gillibrand to succeed Clinton in the U.S. Senate.
A member of the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 49 members of Congress who espouse fiscal conservatism with a mission of "appealing to the mainstream values of the American public."
As a Congresswoman, has promoted transparency, posting her daily schedule, earmarks and financial-disclosure forms online and hosting regular in-person forums for constituents.
"I realize that for many New Yorkers, this is the first time you've heard my
name, and you don't know much about me. Over these next two years you will
get to know me, but more importantly, I will get to know you."
At the press conference announcing her appointment, Jan. 23, 2009
"The Senate is extremely slow: They have enormous difficulty passing the bills that even get through the House. That's the reality that I've recognized in my two years: that it takes time to change the world."
InsideOut Hudson Valley, January/February 2009
"My mother is a great hunter she usually shoots our Thanksgiving turkey."
"She seems like me serious and policy-focused."
Explaining why she'd want actress Jodie Foster to portray her in a TV-movie, in the Saratogian, Nov. 5, 2006
"As a 10-year-old girl, I would listen to my grandmother discuss issues, and she made a lasting impression on me."
On her grandmother, Polly Noonan, a powerful New York State Democrat, in the Albany Times-Union, Oct. 16, 2008
"I don't think clients you represented as an associate are relevant ... I think how you vote is relevant."
On her work as an attorney for Philip Morris, in the Albany Times-Union, Nov. 15, 2005
"As a child she was loud and talked constantly. She talked so loud we had her hearing tested, but it turned out her hearing was fine and that she just wanted to get her point across."
Polly Rutnik, Gillibrand's mother, in the Albany Times-Union. May 13, 2007
"I will not show any support whatsoever. The majority of New Yorkers are trying to reduce gun violence. I just feel that everybody should know what her record is. If she changes, let's see it."
Carolyn McCarthy, a fellow Democratic Congresswoman from Long Island, New York, who harshly criticized Gillibrand's gun-control views and vowed to mount a 2010 primary challenge to the incumbent Senator if necessary, in Newsday, Jan. 23, 2009
"You can't take a résumé and a pretty face from New York City and say to people, This is good for you, simply because we can spend a lot of money and raise a lot of money."
Former U.S. Representative John Sweeney, whom Gillibrand unseated in 2006, dismissing her appeal during their contentious campaign, in the Troy Record, May 7, 2006
"The most effective fundraiser of the House freshman class."
Roll Call, Nov. 5, 2007
"I think politically [the pick] will help the Governor.
It will help the team. She will do some things for them upstate ... Conservative Democrats are winning, so politically it might be a plus. It gives balance."
the Rev. Al Sharpton, on the benefits of Gillibrand's selection, on Fox News, Jan. 22, 2009
With reporting by Randy James and Alex Altman