2020 Democratic Primary Candidates: Kirsten Gillibrand By Luke Perry and Phillip Howard
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) declared her candidacy for president on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert in January of 2019. Gillibrand said she decided to “run for president of the United States because as a young mom, I am going to fight for kids as hard as I would fight for my own.” Gillibrand, the only candidate from upstate New York, seeks to restore “integrity” and compassion” in bringing people together and “start getting things done.”
Gillibrand has an undergraduate degree in Asian studies from Dartmouth College and a law degree from UCLA. She was elected to one term in the U.S. House of Representatives (NY-20) prior to being appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacated seat when Clinton became Secretary of State.
Gillibrand won a special election in 2010 and was reelected in 2012 and 2018. Gillibrand briefly practiced law prior to clerking the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Douglas Muzzio, Political Science professor at Baruch College, says that Gillibrand has “some substantive policy proposals compared to some of the other candidates.” She has prioritized universal paid family leave, publicly funding of national elections, and Medicare-for-All.
For instance, Gillibrand called for a “Family Bill of Rights.” The plan is designed to make raising children safer and more affordable, touching on pregnancy, fertility treatments, adoption, paid family leave, affordable child care, and universal pre-K.
Gillibrand has long emphasized policy issues affecting women, who compromise nearly 60 percent of likely Democratic primary voters. Nearly 60 percent of white, college educated women voted Democratic in 2018, up from 51 percent who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Gillibrand believes that recent state abortion laws passed in several states are “nothing short of an all-out assault on women’s reproductive freedom.” Gillibrand believes if President Trump wants to take on women, he will lose. “I think President Trump and these very extreme Republican legislator around the country, they are taking this country in a direction that it does not want to go,” said Gillibrand.
Current polling data has Gillibrand among the bottom third of candidates, averaging less than 1 percent. She is simultaneously seeking to appeal to moderates, citing her representation in the House of a conservative Congressional district, along with her increasingly left-leaning policy agenda in the U.S. Senate. Behind-the-scenes, Gillbrand upset some traditional Democratic Party donors in calling for the Al Franken’s resignation, and Clinton allies, after stating Bill Clinton should have resigned following his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Gilbrand’s “difficulty testifies to the complications faced by many candidates in the sprawling and multifaceted field” and “demonstrates the limitations of a perceived niche candidate, even one representing a high-profile social movement that helped fuel voter turnout less than a year ago.”
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College
Phillip Howard is a graduate student at Utica College