Given the options on his reported short list, Gov. David Paterson would do well to appoint Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate as successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has accepted President-elect Barack Obama’s appointment to be secretary of state.
Granted, it would be a meteoric rise in political prestige for a congresswoman who has only held public office for the last two years, but she would be ready for the challenge. Here’s why we think she’d do a good job:
¯She seems to know national and international matters very well for a representative just finishing her rookie term.
¯She’s full of energy and passion for the job and seems to have a strong work ethic.
¯She’s tough but talkative and amiable.
¯She has a proven ethical record in the House.
¯She’s not afraid to vote against her party’s leadership, as she did by voting against two different versions of the $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. That was a common-sense decision on her part that is proving to have been the right one.
¯She is from upstate New York, which is of critical importance now, of all times, as New York City people are about to hold almost all the state’s major power positions: governor, majority leaders of both the state Assembly and Senate, attorney general and the other U.S. Senate seat. Upstate is much more representative of the soul of the nation than the City is, and we need more leaders who understand it. Rep. Gillibrand is both cosmopolitan and rurally grounded.
¯She knows our area, having vacationed in Lake Placid regularly since childhood.
¯Although very much a Democrat, she is a more or less a moderate, a pragmatist and a hard-working professional, in line with the signals our president-elect is sending with his cabinet selections. She has proven her bipartisan appeal by being the first Democrat to win in her congressional district since the Republican Party was formed in the mid-1800s, and then she won re-election last month by a much wider margin, against a more respectable opponent than in 2006.
¯She is young.
¯She is a woman.
¯She is a mother of young children. (These last three items are not everything, but they’re not nothing, either.)
Rep. Gillibrand would be a much better senator than Sen. Clinton, who always seemed much more interested in campaigning and positioning herself than in working for New Yorkers. She was seen in the North Country except during election season, in contrast with our other senator Charles Schumer, who visits up here regularly. The secretary of state job, with its globe-trotting solo importance, is a better fit for Sen. Clinton’s style, while the collaborative Senate is a good fit for someone like Rep. Gillibrand.