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Yea or Nea on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand? Nea.

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Message Nicholas Smith

I am a big fan of Governor David Paterson of NY. He seems to be an honorable public official who assumed the Governorship at a time when New York needed fresh leadership.

Like President Barack Obama, Paterson brings a sense of thoughtfulness to his decisions. For example, in dealing with the budget crisis, the Governor proclaimed that this is not the time to reach into the traditional Democratic goodie bag and throw a tax increase upon his people.

He was right, particularly since New Yorkers are taxed up the wazoo. I mean, at the City level, those living under Bloomberg's tenure pay taxes on trans-fats and grocery bags. I support the intent of these policies, but only as a wider effort to raise revenue that goes back into services for those taxed. However, taxation isn't the solution to every problem.

But, I digress.

Having agreed with the Governor on most of his most controversial moves, I must say he's over-analyzed his pick for the United States Senate and erred. A huge mistake? No, but a mistake to be sure. His pick also seems to be an honorable American and political superstar.

Senator-designate Kirsten Gillibrand, appointed by the Governor during a press conference that featured many liberal New Yorkers (including Speaker Sheldon Silver, NY Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, and Congressman Gregory Meeks), is running into opposition from many in her party.

Gillibrand's story is nothing short of amazing, and her meteoric rise rivals that of President Barack Obama. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, she defeated a 20-year incumbent Republican in a traditionally Republican district. One would think she'd be a one termer? Not so. She went on to win re-election in a landslide. Again, this is a Republican district. She probably won as a conservative Democrat; the National Rifle Association rated her at 100%.

While I support diverse ideologies in our elected bodies, as Governor, I would not have appointed someone so out of step with New Yorkers on key constitutional issues.

Namely, she supports a strict constructionist (and, misguided) interpretation of the Second Amendment's "right to bear arms" clause. During the press conference, Gillibrand proclaimed that hunting is a great part of her culture, and although she'll not change her position, she'll listen to what the other side has to say.

Don't call me cynical about vague pledges by politicians, but whenever they take a position on an issue, and then promises to keep an open mind about it, the opposite usually occurs.

While Gillibrand offered this as a response to a reporter's inquiry, I noticed the Governor's facial expression. Blank. I wondered what was he thinking? I have an idea.

He probably thought that the appointment was ideal because she's a woman, is young, is seen as a rising star, has previously defeated a Republican incumbent, and could help him win re-election in 2010. Therefore, the thinking goes, this one issue won't stop her from winning election in 2010 and 2012. (She has to run in 2010 to finish Clinton's term, and then run again during the regular re-election period of 2012.)

While the Governor is correct on many of these characteristics, he still made the wrong choice. While the second amendment isn't typically an issue in statewide politics, it will be in 2010.

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) announced that she will challenge Gillibrand in the primary in 2010. The reason? Gun control. McCarthy's husband was killed and son injured when a gunman opened fire on a train on which they were riding. This event seemingly caused McCarthy to stake out her position.

Although not as young as Gillibrand, she is passionate about a core political issue, so much so that she was pushed to run because of it. However, McCarthy is conservative on several issues. She voted for the Iraq war and then voted for a Republican resolution in support of the invasion. Not good.

Even better than McCarthy and Gillibrand? Rep. Carolyn Maloney. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. I think with the right platform and campaign, these two could survive a primary and win the general election.

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Nicholas Smith is a former Commissioner for the City of Berkeley, CA. He is currently a law student in New York City, and blogs about the day's headlines at
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