BRUNSWICK — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand returned to her hometown upstate Wednesday to kick off her 2020 presidential campaign, saying she understood the “urgency of this moment” and had the track record to win.
“I feel very called at this moment to make that difference,” Gillibrand said outside a local diner not far from her residence, one day after she announced her candidacy. “I believe the urgency of this moment — now you have to take on President Trump and what he is doing. I believe he is literally ripping apart the country, the moral fabric. And you’ve got to restore the decency and leadership in the world. And that is why I feel so called to take on that battle.”
The 52-year-old Democrat announced she was running one night earlier on CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” She plans to embark Friday on a three-day trip to Iowa, home of the first caucus of the 2020 presidential race.
Gillibrand talked with local supporters at the Country View Diner after taking questions from reporters. Re-elected two months ago, she sought to downplay criticism regarding her pledge to serve a full, six-year Senate term as well as her call for fellow Democrat Al Franken to resign from the chamber following a series of sexual harassment allegations.
“My job was not to stay silent,” Gillibrand said. Regarding stories about angering some Democratic donors, she added: “If some wealthy individuals, if that makes them angry, that’s on them.”
Gillibrand began her tenure in Congress as a member of the “Blue Dog” Democrats, a group of centrists. Now, she features the most “anti-Trump” voting record in the Senate. Her rating from the National Rifle Association went from an A to an F. She has been called too close to Wall Street by some Democrats, but now says she won’t accept corporate contributions.
Asked what she would say to voters about her changing views, she said: “I would tell them, ‘Look at my heart.’ “
She said she changed her mind on gun control after meeting with parents whose children were murdered.
“I think it’s important to know when you are wrong and to do what’s right,” she said.
Gillibrand joins a rapidly crowding Democratic field. She said she has the “track record to show” her differences with other candidates and that the 2020 race “is going to be a very different campaign” from 2016.
“I think you need to create a better vision for this country and about who you are fighting for, and why,” Gillibrand said. “I bring people together. And I think what the country wants and what I can give is the ability to bring all people together on what is right.”