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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

New York

N/A

gillibrand.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: Appointed Jan. 2009, term expires 2018, 1st full term.

Born: December 9, 1966, Albany, NY

Home: Brunswick, NY

Education: Dartmouth Col., A.B. 1988, U.C.L.A., J.D. 1991

Professional Career: Practicing atty, 1991-2006; Special counsel, HUD, 2000.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Married (Jonathan Gillibrand) , 2 children

Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, New York’s junior senator, had been in the House for just one term when Democratic Gov. David Paterson in 2009 appointed her to the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After a bumpy early start, she began to earn respect for her tenacity after winning elections to the seat in 2010 and 2012. She is occasionally mentioned as a future presidential and vice-presidential candidate, and said in 2014 that she'd consider the White House "someday."

Gillibrand (JILL-uh-brand) hails from a politically sophisticated family. Her father, Douglas Rutnik, is an attorney and lobbyist who had close ties to Zenia Mucha, a top aide to former Republican Gov. George Pataki. Her grandmother, Polly Noonan, was a prominent Democratic activist in Albany and longtime companion of Albany Mayor Erastus Corning (1941-83). Her grandmother used to bring Gillibrand along with her on the campaign trail. Gillibrand attended the all-girls Emma Willard School in Troy and graduated from Dartmouth College, where she majored in Asian studies and attained fluency in Mandarin. One of her fellow Asian studies majors was actress Connie Britton of "Nashville" and "Friday Night Lights" fame; they were among the first Dartmouth students to visit China after the country was opened to American students.

Gillibrand traveled widely, worked as a summer intern for Republican Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, graduated from law school at the University of California, Los Angeles, and did a United Nations internship in Vienna, Austria. After law school, Gillibrand clerked for a Reagan-appointed federal Appeals Court judge and served briefly as special counsel for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo. She then joined a major New York law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner. Gillibrand raised money for Clinton’s first Senate campaign in 2000.

In 2005, she launched a quixotic campaign against four-term U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, a rising Republican star with a seat on the Appropriations Committee, who had never faced a serious re-election challenge. With hard work but also a lot of luck, Gillibrand won the seat. Although Sweeney was a strong incumbent, he developed some serious vulnerabilities during the campaign. He missed several weeks of House votes after he was hospitalized in February 2006 for the treatment of vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels. He got negative press about a fundraising event in Utah that included a ski vacation and dinner at the home of a pharmaceutical lobbyist.

Still, August polls showed Sweeney with a solid lead. He called Gillibrand a carpetbagger who lived not in the Hudson Valley-based congressional district but in a Manhattan high-rise. He also accused her campaign of making anonymous and intimidating phone calls to his wife. He emphasized his independence from the unpopular Bush administration and contrasted his working-class background with Gillibrand’s prep-school pedigree. Gillibrand did plenty of negative campaigning of her own. She demanded that Sweeney release police reports from two arrests in 1977 and 1978 and from a 2001 automobile accident; he called on her to release her income tax returns. In October, it was revealed that Sweeney had traveled to the Northern Mariana Islands with Tony Rudy, an associate of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in a scandal that involved several congressional junkets to the islands. Then, one week before the election, the Albany Times Union reported that Sweeney’s wife had called local police in December 2005 to complain that the congressman was “knocking her around.” Sweeney’s campaign at first insisted that the police report was “false and concocted by our opposition,” but he eventually conceded that state police were called to his home.

Sweeney spent $3.4 million to Gillibrand’s $2.6 million. But in a year when then Sen. Clinton and Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer were heading to landslide statewide victories and Republicans were dragged down by Bush, Gillibrand won 53%-47%.

When she arrived in the House, Gillibrand began posting a “Sunlight Report” of her daily schedule, including meetings with lobbyists. She held “office hours” in grocery stores throughout the district. She got the committee seats she wanted, on Agriculture and Armed Services. On the issue of Iraq, she voted for a nonbinding resolution calling for withdrawing troops but also for a bill providing funding for the war without a timetable for troop withdrawal.

She cast conservative votes on gun-related issues, compiling a 100% score from the National Rifle Association. Gillibrand said she grew up in a family of hunters and kept two rifles under her bed and that she “always believed in protecting hunters’ rights.” She opposed driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and voted for a controversial bill granting immunity to telecommunications companies that had cooperated with government requests for warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens’ communications.

Defending the seat for the first time in 2008, Gillibrand did prodigious fundraising and collected $4.6 million. Her opponent was state Republican Chairman Sandy Treadwell, who spent nearly $6 million of his own money. But Gillibrand’s moderate-to-conservative stands on issues paid off. She won 62%-38%.

When Clinton was named President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for secretary of State, Gillibrand was not the first person to spring to mind as a likely Clinton successor. Paterson considered appointing New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, which would have removed Cuomo as a possible primary opponent to Paterson in 2010. Paterson also gave serious thought to appointing Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late president. But after Kennedy performed weakly in a series of Upstate public appearances and in an interview with The New York Times, she withdrew. Two days later, Paterson announced that he was appointing Gillibrand, a surprise pick considering that several more-prominent political figures and more senior House members were interested. But arguing in Gillibrand’s favor was her moderate politics on some issues.

On Jan. 27, 2009, Gillibrand was sworn in as the youngest U.S. senator. She held early meetings with Paterson, Clinton, and Sen. Charles Schumer, New York’s senior senator and a member of the Democratic leadership. Soon afterward, Gillibrand began modifying some of her positions that were out of step with the party, particularly on gun control. “There’re a lot of concerns in many of our city communities about gun violence, about keeping our children safe, and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals,” she said. Gillibrand subsequently opposed Senate amendments that would have allowed licensed gun owners to carry concealed firearms across state lines and repealed the District of Columbia’s tough gun laws.

But she had to contend with a variety of unwanted developments. The New York Times published an unflattering front page article in March 2009 that said Gillibrand, as a lawyer for Philip Morris in 1996, helped defend the tobacco company against allegations that it lied about the existence of internal research on the health effects of smoking. Within weeks of her appointment, news stories began appearing about potential Democratic primary challengers, including Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Steve Israel and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. By January 2010, an even more prominent possible opponent surfaced—former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, who had moved to New York three years earlier to become an adviser to Merrill Lynch after losing a bid for a Senate seat in his home state. A savvy and ambitious centrist, he called on her to drop her support for health care legislation and questioned whether she was independent enough to represent the state.

Gillibrand, however, had two powerful patrons—Schumer and Obama. They personally lobbied would-be challengers to give her a clear path to the nomination. At the same time, Schumer—who was known for being less than thrilled at having to often share the spotlight with Clinton—seemed to delight in taking his new colleague under his wing. He pressed Senate leaders to give her the committee assignments she desired, put her name next to his on project funding announcements in the state, and introduced her to deep-pocketed Democratic donors. “He does look after me in a lot of ways,” Gillibrand told The Times in May 2009.

Ford initially was undaunted by such strong support, saying he would not be “bullied or intimidated” by “party bosses.” He and Gillibrand traded barbs in the news media throughout the early months of 2009 while he traveled the state. Nevertheless, in early March, he announced that he, too, would not run.

Gillibrand turned her full focus to legislating. The reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, passed into law in the lame-duck session of 2010, included a number of her proposals, such as banning junk food from schools. She joined with several senators to get a bipartisan bill through committee requiring senators to post online their earmark requests for home-state funding projects. Meanwhile, she was able to banish any remaining doubts among Democrats about whether she was a reliable vote.

The issue that initially brought Gillibrand the most attention was her call for repeal of the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay military service members. She introduced legislation in July 2009 at a time when interest in the issue was lagging—its leading champion, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, was dying of cancer. In subsequent months, she lobbied former House colleagues as well as fellow senators, pushed for hearings and set up a website featuring videos of gay and lesbian veterans telling their stories. “If you care about national security, if you care about our military readiness, then you will repeal this corrosive policy,” she said in an emotional floor speech shortly before it passed the Senate. It became law soon thereafter, earning her widespread praise from progressive and gay rights groups. She made another emotional plea in December 2010 for a stalled bill providing benefits for first responders in the September 11 attacks. She invoked the stories of three people who became ill and, in two cases, died from health complications linked to the toxic dust they inhaled at Ground Zero. She said Congress had a “moral obligation” to pass the measure, which became law.

But Gillibrand’s poll numbers remained lackluster throughout 2009, giving some Republicans hope as the 2010 special election for the remainder of Clinton’s term approached. (It was held concurrently with the general election.) But by April 2010, Gillibrand had amassed a $6 million war chest, and GOP luminaries like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Gov. George Pataki took a pass. In the primary, she easily dispatched challenger Gail Goode, a New York lawyer.

In the general election, her opponent was former Rep. Joseph DioGuardi, an accountant from Westchester County. He assailed her support for President Obama’s economic stimulus bill and other Democratic priorities while blaming her for being unable to prevent the state from losing jobs. But he remained unknown throughout much of the state, and Gillibrand won the seat in her own right, 63%-35%.

With that election under her belt, Gillibrand moved further leftward than Schumer. She was among those tied in National Journal’s rankings for most-liberal senator in 2011, was 13th in 2012 and tied for 5th in 2013. In addition to calling in March 2011 for Obama to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, she introduced a bill to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act and appeared in a video backing gay marriage. At the same time, she tended to the state, visiting all 62 of the Empire State’s counties and working with Democrats on measures to boost manufacturing.

Gillibrand also began burnishing her national image by starting a campaign, Off the Sidelines, to mobilize female candidates across the country. She cemented her reputation as a fundraising powerhouse—the $6.3 million she raised during the first half of 2011 alone was more than that of any other senator. Fitness magazines took note of her 40-pound weight loss. She pleased good-government advocates in early 2012 when she pushed the Senate version of a bill to require more public disclosure of stock transactions by lawmakers, and the insurance industry commended her when she got a provision into the surface transportation bill calling for more training of teenage drivers to reduce accidents.

Her political clout was such that national Republicans decided to focus their attention elsewhere when she was up for reelection in 2012, seeking a full six-year term. Wendy Long, a Manhattan lawyer active in conservative circles, got the Republican nod. But Long couldn’t come close to Gillibrand’s fundraising might; the senator took in more than $15 million to her rival’s $785,000 and won a commanding 72%-26% victory.

In the 113th Congress (2013-14), combating sexual assault became Gillibrand's major focus. She introduced a bill to remove the chain of command from prosecuting military sexual assaults and other crimes. She waged an aggressive, high-profile effor to bring it up, even telling Illinois voters during one trip there that they needed to pressure their senator, Democrat Richard Durbin, to sign on as a sponsor. (Durbin was reportedly irked by the move, but eventually did so.) It fell five votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster in March 2014; several Democrats agreed with Republican arguments that it could lead to unwanted broader changes in the military's justice system. "We need to just keep working, keep developing the evidence and making sure that people understand what it really is like serving in the military if you’ve been raped and how difficult it is to report because of the breach of trust with the chain of command," she told Time magazine. Meanwhile, to deal with sexual assaults on college campuses, she joined a bipartisan group of senators in introducing a bill in July 2014 that would require schools to make public results of anonymous surveys on assaults while also imposing tough fines on schools failing to comply with requirements.

Gillibrand took advantage of representing the nation's media capital. She appeared on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart in 2013 and deflected questions about her campaign donations from controversial Wall Street titans Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan; though she said she would prefer a publicly financed election system, she defended her record in favor of regulating the financial industry. And she wrote a memoir in 2014, Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World, about her efforts to help get women into politics. The book deviated from the usual tomes on the subject by offering self-help and diet advice and drew attention when Gillibrand wrote about how some of her unnamed male colleagues commented about her weight; one expressed concern that she might become “porky,” while another assured her that she was pretty even when she was heavier. She also caused a minor fracas when she called Arlington, Va., a "soulless suburb," irking that community's residents. "Sorry, Arlington, didn't mean to hurt your feelings," she said in a response tweet.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4451

(202) 228-0282

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 478
Washington, DC 20510-3205

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4451

(202) 228-0282

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 478
Washington, DC 20510-3205

DISTRICT OFFICE

(212) 688-6262

(212) 688-7444

780 Third Avenue Suite 2601
New York, NY 10017

DISTRICT OFFICE

(212) 688-6262

(212) 688-7444

780 Third Avenue Suite 2601
New York, NY 10017

DISTRICT OFFICE

(518) 431-0120

(518) 431-0128

Leo W. O'Brien Federal Office Building Room 821
Albany, NY 12207

DISTRICT OFFICE

(518) 431-0120

(518) 431-0128

Leo W. O'Brien Federal Office Building Room 821
Albany, NY 12207

DISTRICT OFFICE

(585) 263-6250

(585) 263-6247

Kenneth B. Keating Federal Office Building Room 4195
Rochester, NY 14614

DISTRICT OFFICE

(585) 263-6250

(585) 263-6247

Kenneth B. Keating Federal Office Building Room 4195
Rochester, NY 14614

DISTRICT OFFICE

(315) 448-0470

(315) 448-0476

James M. Hanley Federal Building Room 1470
Syracuse, NY 13261

DISTRICT OFFICE

(315) 448-0470

(315) 448-0476

James M. Hanley Federal Building Room 1470
Syracuse, NY 13261

DISTRICT OFFICE

(716) 854-9725

(716) 854-9731

Larkin At Exchange Suite 511
Buffalo, NY 14210

DISTRICT OFFICE

(716) 854-9725

(716) 854-9731

Larkin At Exchange Suite 511
Buffalo, NY 14210

DISTRICT OFFICE

(315) 376-6118

PO Box 273
Lowville, NY 13367

DISTRICT OFFICE

(315) 376-6118

PO Box 273
Lowville, NY 13367

DISTRICT OFFICE

(631) 249-2825

(631) 249-2847

155 Pinelawn Road Suite 250 North
Melville, NY 11747

DISTRICT OFFICE

(631) 249-2825

(631) 249-2847

155 Pinelawn Road Suite 250 North
Melville, NY 11747

DISTRICT OFFICE

(845) 875-4585

(845) 875-9099

PO Box 893
Mahopac, NY 10541

DISTRICT OFFICE

(845) 875-4585

(845) 875-9099

PO Box 893
Mahopac, NY 10541

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Staff

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Abortion

Aerospace

Jordan Baugh
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Eric Deeble
Legislative Assistant

Animal Rights

Eric Deeble
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Jon Cardinal
Director of Economic Development

Arts

Eric Deeble
Legislative Assistant

Banking

Budget

Keith Castaldo
General Counsel

Campaign

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Keith Castaldo
General Counsel

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Jordan Baugh
Legislative Assistant

Disaster

Jordan Baugh
Legislative Assistant

Susan Spear
Regional Director

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Jon Cardinal
Director of Economic Development

Janneke House
Special Assistant for Economic Development and Transportation

Education

Alyson Northrup
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Jordan Baugh
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Jordan Baugh
Legislative Assistant

Family

Keith Castaldo
General Counsel

Finance

Keith Castaldo
General Counsel

Foreign

Robb Davies
Military Legislative Correspondent

Moran Banai
Senior Advisor

Greg Smiley
Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

Vicki Ger
Immigration Counsel

Alexandra Patino
Director of Immigration and Foreign Affairs

Govt Ops

Alyson Northrup
Legislative Assistant

Grants

Jon Cardinal
Director of Economic Development

Gun Issues

Homeland Security

Robb Davies
Military Legislative Correspondent

Moran Banai
Senior Advisor

Housing

Immigration

Vicki Ger
Immigration Counsel

Alexandra Patino
Director of Immigration and Foreign Affairs

Intelligence

Robb Davies
Military Legislative Correspondent

Moran Banai
Senior Advisor

Labor

Jon Cardinal
Director of Economic Development

Land Use

Jordan Baugh
Legislative Assistant

Military

Robb Davies
Military Legislative Correspondent

Moran Banai
Senior Advisor

Joel Schumacher
Constituent Liaison for Veterans and Military Affairs

Abbas Malik
Military Advisor

Minorities

Native Americans

Public Works

Jordan Baugh
Legislative Assistant

Recreation

Jordan Baugh
Legislative Assistant

Rules

Seniors

Alyson Northrup
Legislative Assistant

Small Business

Jon Cardinal
Director of Economic Development

Social Security

Keith Castaldo
General Counsel

Tax

Technology

Jon Cardinal
Director of Economic Development

Telecommunications

Marc Brumer
Communications Director

Keith Castaldo
General Counsel

Trade

Keith Castaldo
General Counsel

Transportation

Jordan Baugh
Legislative Assistant

Janneke House
Special Assistant for Economic Development and Transportation

Veterans

Robb Davies
Military Legislative Correspondent

Moran Banai
Senior Advisor

Joel Schumacher
Constituent Liaison for Veterans and Military Affairs

Welfare

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Kirsten Gillibrand
Votes: 4,816,880
Percent: 72.2%
Wendy Long
Votes: 1,758,089
Percent: 26.36%
2012 PRIMARY
Kirsten Gillibrand
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Kirsten Gillibrand
Votes: 2,837,684
Percent: 63.0%
Joseph DioGuardi
Votes: 1,582,693
Percent: 35.0%
2010 PRIMARY
Kirsten Gillibrand
Votes: 464,512
Percent: 76.15%
Gail Goode
Votes: 145,491
Percent: 23.85%
2008 GENERAL
Kirsten Gillibrand
Votes: 193,651
Percent: 62.12%
Sandy Treadwell
Votes: 118,031
Percent: 37.86%
2008 PRIMARY
Kirsten Gillibrand
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
Senate: 2010 special (63%); House: 2008 (62%), 2006 (53%)

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