Your new Senator with Al D’Amato (l.)
“So it’s August the 14th, 2003,” says Governor Paterson, “and I am going to meet a lawyer who is going to be meeting me in an office building in Manhatan.” (He wanted her not to run for Congress in ’04, as she had planned, but the state senate.) “All the lights go out. It’s the blackout of 2003.” Laughter! “So I tell my assistant that Kirsten Gillibrand is 8 1/2 months pregnant, so we should meet her and perhaps drive her somewhere… so we wait and we wait and we wait.” Finally about 45 minutes later they figure something out: “Number one, the woman was not Kirsten. And number two, she was not pregnant.” Ha ha — what? “Apparently, independent as always, Kirsten Gillibrand went out the back door and walked all the way to Penn Station.”
“This brings us to today,” Paterson said to laughter. “We just saw an orderly transference of power in Washington… Today our US Constitution acts again, and empowers states to fill senate seats when they become vacant…”
After the civic lesson, Paterson explains, poignantly, that “I am privileged and yet responsible… I didn’t ask for this responsibllity,” and emphasizes that this is an “interim” appointment, and there will be a special election in 2010.
“When I became aware that this duty would fall on me,” Paterson created the process he worked out (solicitation, questionnaires, interviews,”anything in the candidates’ background that would eliminate them from consideration,” consultations), the excellent results of which we have just seen.
“I believe I have found the best candidate,” he said. Someone who “will help our children” and help the economy, too! (And “all Americans.”) “This decision was not based on gender” or any of those things. He reminds us that RFK, Moynihan, and Hillary had the seat before, and leave “very big shoes to fill.” He conveys Hillary’s warm endorsement to (Gillibrand).
Paterson reviewed her work on balancing the budget, doubling tax credit for child care, tuition tax credits, posting her schedule and earmarks online, membership on the Armed Services and Agriculture committees, and her terrorist bona fides in the former and her livestock, poultry, and conservation in the latter. “So she has been busy in her one term.”
Then he introduced her, and she took her applause with Al D’Amato standing right behind her.
Gillibrand called it an “incredible honor” and an “opportunity.” She called Paterson an “extraordinary, effective and committed leader,” and herself his “partner.” She also thanked “our First Lady” for her interest in child care. She admitted most of us don’t know her, but insists we will, and “more importantly, I will get to know you.” She will represent “diverse voices,” including farmers and factory worker and brokers.
She spent some time stroking Clinton for standing up for human rights,” and recalled “watching her become this extraordinary force for families.” She said she expected Clinton and Obama to “restore America’s greatness around the world.”
She also thanked Chuck Schumer (“an inspiration to me.. incredible leadership”), Nancy Pelosi (“provided me with so many opportunities”), Charlie Rangel (“ensure that every child can reach his or her potential”) and looked forward to working with them.”
Gillibrand gave a special shout to the ladies in the House, including Nita Lowey (“took me under her wing”), Slaughter, Carolyn McCarthy (“provided outstanding leadership on gun violence”), Nydia Velazquez, ad Yvette Clark. Then some men, Democratic (Sheldon Silver, Malcom Smith), and some Republican (Dean Skelos, James Tedisco), “personal mentor” Andrew Cuomo, and “last but not least” her 20th District constituents, country chairs, etc.
More thanks. Then she mentioned that she grew up “right here in Albany” and cites her grandmother’s political career, and the ladies “stuffing envelopes” in the living room, as her political inspiration. Then she talked about each individual member of her family (“He’s a good sleeper, which all moms want”).
She talked about what she intends to work on as Senator — “energy technologies,” stimulus package, revitalizing economy, “increasing the share of Medicaid dollars that the U.S. gives back to New York,” high speed rail, “marriage equality” (!), etc. And then she was told to wrap it up, the assembled dignitaries waited for Barack Obama to call back (Gillibrand was talking when he first called), and… (here comes Schumer to the podium, so we’ll get out while the getting’s good).
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 23, 2009