UPDATE: It's official, Kirsten Gillibrand will be the next U.S. Senator from New York. It's going to be interesting to see how a gun-loving Blue Dog Democrat goes over with the New York liberal establishment. Apparently, several of the state's left-leaning U.S. Representatives are hopping mad, with one even threatening a primary challenge in the 2010 election. It's also worth noting that Gillibrand's congressional district generally leans Republican, so the special election to fill her seat should be competitive.
I've been thinking that this might happen for several weeks now, but I held my tongue considering that Caroline Kennedy appeared to have locked up Hillary Clinton's old Senate seat. However, with Princess Caroline suddenly pulling out of the race, some are speculating that New York Gov. David Paterson is leaning toward the woman who I have always thought to be the biggest wild-card in the selection process.
Meet Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand from New York's 20th District. She's been placed on lists of rising Democratic stars for a while, and when Hillary was first nominated for the Obama cabinet, she appeared on many lists of potential candidates. At that point, she seemed like the best choice for several reasons: First, she was the only person on most of the lists who met one of the key concerns expressed by Gov. Paterson himself - she can win in upstate New York. Second, she's young, dynamic, and marketable in a time when the Democrats are looking to replace their aging generation of female leaders. While most of the other potential candidates are from NYC or the surrounding area, Gillibrand represents a sprawling rural district that engulfs a huge chunk of Eastern New York State. At age 42, she would be the youngest Senator, and she's one of three sitting Congresswomen that I think have the potential to become the Democratic answer to Sarah Palin (the other two being Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota).
Furthermore, Gov. Paterson strikes me as one of the most stubborn and mischievous men in American politics. It takes a lot of determination for a blind man to become Governor, let alone a blind man who refuses to learn Braille or use a cane - so I'm guessing that he resents the pressure he's feeling from the powerful Kennedy and Cuomo dynasties. He's been openly hinting that Caroline Kennedy is not the only candidate, and that he is considering wild-cards, which leads me to believe that he has a similar distaste for the idea of appointing State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (son of Mario). If my read on Paterson is correct, he is probably dead set on making his own choice and relishing the idea of surprising the nation with an underdog.
I won't go so far as to make it an official prediction. But, like I said, I've had a sneaking suspicion that Gov. Paterson has wanted to pick this lady all along. So, With Kennedy out, I'm going out on a limb and saying that I think there is a very good chance that we will soon be talking about Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.