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Editorial: Re-elect Kirsten Gillibrand as U.S. senator

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democratic candidate for Senate. (Oct.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democratic candidate for Senate. (Oct. 8, 2012) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

This is the third time Kirsten Gillibrand has sought her U.S. Senate seat, so it feels like she's been in the job far longer than she has. That she is such a newcomer is easy to forget. Gillibrand had just started her second term in the House of Representatives from a mostly rural upstate district when Sen. Hillary Clinton resigned to become secretary of State.

Gov. David A. Paterson chose Gillibrand, and in 2010 she defended the seat in a special election to finish Clinton's term through this year. Now she is running for her first full six-year term.

Gillibrand's short time in the Senate makes you realize how much she's learned. She has become a passionate advocate for electing more women to high office, and for protecting the needs of women everywhere, especially in the military. She has learned the legislative ropes, finding ways to get laws passed, including the Zadroga Act to aid 9/11 first-responders and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which barred gays from serving openly in the military.

She has learned the issues -- big ones like banking and defense, narrower ones like dairy subsidies, and niche constituent issues. Gillibrand now has a firm grasp on the details of the job and on the scope of the problems and opportunities facing the state and our nation. She's grown into her position admirably and quickly.

Her opponent is Wendy Long, a Manhattan attorney who has never held public office. The fact that Long is a relative unknown makes it tempting to dismiss her, but that would be a mistake.

The former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is strikingly intelligent, open to new ideas, and deeply fascinated with the philosophical give and take of public policy. Her keen intellect would serve her well in politics or another aspect of public life, and we hope she won't disappear from the arena.

Gillibrand has come a long way, but there is more to do -- and right now. The federal government will play an important role in helping our region recover from superstorm Sandy. Long Island in particular needs a partner in Washington to deal with the lack of sewers in Suffolk, contamination left by the nation's defense industry in Bethpage and Calverton, nitrogen in our waters, and high tax bills in our mailboxes. To address our needs, she has to see how we live and hear what we say. A little more face time on Long Island would earn Gillibrand more stripes.

She's done fine and we think she can do even better.

Newsday endorses Gillibrand.