Former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato on Monday endorsed fellow Republican Chele Chiavacci Farley in her bid to unseat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat who interned for D’Amato.
D’Amato praised Gillibrand four years ago in Time magazine, writing that “she’d make a great president,” but the Long Island lobbyist and power broker said Monday that her ambitions for higher office hurt New Yorkers.
“The Kirsten Gillibrand of today is unrecognizable to the person who interned for me or even the person who served in Congress — she has abandoned New Yorkers in her pursuit of her presidential ambitions,” he said in a statement.
“Chele Farley is the best chance we have had to win back this seat in over twenty years,” he said in a statement of the GOP.
Farley is a state Republican Party fundraiser and former Manhattan investment firm partner.
D’Amato, who served as U.S. senator from New York from 1981 to 1999, was photographed standing alongside Gillibrand on a stage full of Democrats in 2009 when she was introduced as then-Gov. David Paterson’s appointee to the Senate.
In 2010, D’Amato endorsed Gillibrand in her special election.
In 2012, he endorsed her GOP opponent, Wendy Long.
Then, in 2014, he wrote about Gillibrand in Time magazine, which named her one of its “100 Most Influential People.”
“When she first ran for the House, I thought that race was impossible to win, but she never gave up and she did it,” he wrote. “She has taken that same bright, tenacious spirit I saw in her as my intern to the House and then the Senate, serving her constituents and fighting hard on issues like sexual assault in the military.”
D’Amato had added: “She’d make a great president.”
He said Monday that Farley is rightly focused on “bringing back the federal funding we need to fix our crumbling roads, bridges and subway and creating jobs.”
Farley is competing against Gillibrand’s greater name recognition in the state and her sizable campaign war chest.
A Siena College poll last month found 5 percent of registered voters in the state had a favorable opinion of Farley and 86 percent either didn’t know her or had no opinion of her. The poll found 49 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Gillibrand and 25 percent either didn’t know her or had no opinion on her.
Gillibrand campaign spokesman Glen Caplin declined to comment on D’Amato’s endorsement.