- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is jumping into the 2020 presidential race Tuesday, making her the newest heavy-hitter in what will likely be a crowded Democratic primary.
- Gillibrand has one of the most progressive voting records in the Senate, has been a fierce critic of the president’s in Washington, and spent the last few years championing women in politics.
- The senator made her announcement on CBS’ “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York jumped into the 2020 presidential race Tuesday.
She joins Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, in the most wide-open Democratic presidential primary since 1992.
Gillibrand is also scheduled to travel to Iowa for her first campaign swing this weekend.
The New York senator has already recruited several staffers to her campaign, including Meredith Kelly, the former head spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And she’s picked a historic building in downtown Troy, New York, as the headquarters for her 2020 campaign, the Albany Business Review reported.
In a competitive race without an obvious front-runner, Gillibrand offers primary voters a clear choice on ideology and identity. She’s long maintained the most anti-Trump voting record in the Senate, has been a fierce critic of the president’s in Washington, and spent the last few years championing women in politics.
Gillibrand has tangled with President Donald Trump (calling on him to resign in late 2017) over the sexual misconduct accusations numbering more than a dozen he has faced. When the president attacked her shortly thereafter – calling her a “lightweight” who “would do anything” for campaign contributions – the senator shot back, “You cannot silence me or the millions of women” who have challenged Trump’s fitness for office.
“What President Trump has done to this country is destroying the fabric of who we are,” she told MSNBC in November.
Notably, Gillibrand has led the conversation in Washington on sexual harassment and assault, waging a years-long fight against sexual misconduct in the military and on college campuses.
The fact that she’s a woman could be an asset if the party prioritises breaking the glass ceiling in 2020. And at 52, the senator is also younger than many of her potential competitors, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Gillibrand had hinted for several months that she would launch a presidential bid and has topped lists of likely candidates. Many signs – including her prodigious fundraising, outreach to young people and communities of colour, and deeply anti-Trump voting record – have pointed to her higher ambitions. (She easily won reelection to the Senate last year with 67% of the vote.)
Last February, Gillibrand became the fourth sitting Democratic senator to ban corporate PAC money from her coffers – a position that’s become something of a litmus test for 2020 contenders.
But the senator sparked controversy within her own party when she led the Democratic caucus in pressuring Sen. Al Franken, a close friend and ally, to leave office in December 2017 amid mounting allegations of sexual misconduct.
While Gillibrand was celebrated for taking leadership on the issue, many Democrats criticised the move.
A year later, some of the party’s wealthiest donors remain convinced that Franken’s ouster was unjust. More than a dozen party patrons told Politico in November that that they blame Gillibrand and, as a result, will never donate to or raise funds for her potential 2020 bid.
Gillibrand’s allies have publicly praised the move and characterised criticism of it as sexist.
“What KG is being maligned for is believing women,” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, tweeted in November.
But the senator’s allies are privately concerned that many voters agree with the donors and have a long memory.
Gillibrand might also face pushback from progressives in the party over her history as a more centrist congresswomen representing upstate New York. Since being appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacated Senate seat in 2009, the Albany-native has moved to the left on several issues, including immigration and gun control.
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