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Gillibrand: LI's biggest issues are jobs, economy

Kirsten Gillibrand speaks as Gov. David A. Paterson

Kirsten Gillibrand speaks as Gov. David A. Paterson looks on during a news conference announcing her as Paterson's choice to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat for New York on Jan. 23, 2009 in Albany. Photo Credit: Getty Images File

In a possible preview of her campaign, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand barnstormed Nassau County Sunday, touting federal funds she helped secure for a community center and for cancer research.

Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who made four stops in the county, talked about $892,000 in stimulus funds for the planned $20-million New Cassel Community Center, on which construction is set to begin in the spring.

Later she toured the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where the Women's Cancer Genomics Center received a $500,000 federal appropriation in the 2010 federal budget.

But with her image in the region still largely undefined, 13 months after being appointed to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gillibrand's visit was intended to introduce her on a personal level to Long Islanders.

"For most of you, you don't know much about me," she told parishioners at the First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury. "I grew up in upstate New York, near Albany."

Gillibrand cited jobs and the economy as the biggest issues on Long Island. She pledged to steer more federal money to needy communities here.

"What I can do on the federal level is bring in federal resources to give to local governments to offset the need for property taxes," she said. She did not offer specifics about what new projects she will seek to have funded.

Gillibrand also brushed aside questions about former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, who is considering a Democratic primary challenge to her. She declined to say whether she expects him to enter the race.

"He's welcome to run," she said. "Anybody's welcome to move here from Tennessee and run for Senate if they want. I'm focusing on the needs of New Yorkers."

She also declined to say whether Gov. David A. Paterson, who announced Friday that he would not run for election, should serve the rest of his term. Paterson is facing allegations that he and members of the State Police interfered in a domestic violence case involving a top Paterson aide. An investigation of the matter by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is under way.

"We've had some very difficult issues come to light the last few days," Gillibrand said. "Obviously there's no room for domestic violence in our communities and no room for abuse of power in our communities. Right now there's a full investigation and I expect everyone to participate in that investigation fully."

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