Ten years ago, Kirsten Gillibrand was wrapping up her freshman term in the House, representing a fairly rural and conservative district in the Hudson Valley. Now, seeking her second full term in the Senate, she is one of the highest-profile Democrats in the nation.
Her rapid ascent took talent, ambition, hard work and keen political instincts, but it has not come without a cost.
Gillibrand, 51, of Brunswick, shines most in her fights for women’s rights and well-being. Her tireless advocacy to professionalize the process by which sexual harassment and abuse are handled in the military and take it out of the chain of command is both proper and admirable. She also has been at the forefront of fighting such assaults on college campuses, in the corporate world and even in the House and Senate themselves. The continued tolerance for such abuse and the too-common retaliation for those who report it are a stain on our nation.
She wants to fund a huge national infrastructure plan, put a price on carbon to fight climate change and pass a paid family leave act, and she’s right on these issues.
Gillibrand, though, shines less bright when she jumps at a shiny issue she hopes will score political points without thinking through the ramifications. She did this in throwing her support behind the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It’s a powerful slogan, but a terrible idea. ICE would better serve the nation if President Donald Trump dedicated more resources to the pressing priorities of serious crime and terrorism than the deportation of immigrants here illegally who are not dangerous and are working to make new lives for themselves.
And Gillibrand made a similarly costly mistake when she flip-flopped on a bill that would have punished individuals who actively worked to support boycotts of Israel by nongovernmental entities. Gillibrand first co-sponsored the bill, infuriating elements of the pro-Palestinian left who attacked it, then repudiated it, enraging the strong supporters of Israel.
Gillibrand has used her time in the Senate to establish a national profile but has little presence in New York and especially on Long Island. She’s not a fixture at important events and some local elected officials don’t consider her a go-to representative when they need assistance from the federal government.
Republican candidate Chele Farley, 51, of Manhattan, is a political newcomer who has served as the New York City finance chair for the party. She’s a Stanford-trained engineer who has had a successful career in finance, and says she would be a tireless advocate for New York. Farley wants New York State to retrieve the $60 billion more she says it will pay the federal government in 2018 than it gets back. She would create a $36,000-a-year tax deduction for renters and fund infrastructure projects like the Gateway railroad tunnel. But she has no idea how Washington should make up the deficit such changes would create.
Gillibrand has grown considerably in her decade in Washington, and her policy positions are ones that more closely reflect the views of most New Yorkers. She just needs to bring that passion to fighting for Long Island.
Newsday endorses Gillibrand.