Gillibrand headed to the Senate

GILLIBRAND HEADED TO THE SENATE…. I’ve been reluctant to write a post about Gov. David Paterson’s decision regarding New York’s Senate vacancy, in large part because of his capacity to change his mind. Sure, it looks like he’s about to appoint Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to the seat, but maybe Paterson will throw us an 11th-hour curve-ball?

Apparently not. Paterson made the offer, Gillibrand has accepted, and the announcement will be made in about an hour.

Ms. Gillibrand is largely unknown to New Yorkers statewide, but is considered an up-and-coming and forceful lawmaker in her district and has gained considerable attention from Democratic leaders in Washington.

Mr. Paterson made his final decision shortly before 2 a.m. Friday after a marathon series of phone calls and deliberations with his top aides, according to the person who spoke to him. He began making phone calls to other contenders about 9 p.m., and had notified most of the other contenders by midnight. By then, the only two candidates who had not heard from Mr. Paterson were Ms. Gillibrand and Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Paterson had indicated at various points in the process that he would prioritize gender concerns and the interests of up-state New York, and Gillibrand certainly addresses both questions. For that matter, she’s proven herself to be a very effective fundraiser, which no doubt matters to the governor and the state party (Paterson will be sharing a statewide ballot with her next year.)

But if Paterson hoped to avoid political strife with his selection, he’s out of luck. Gillibrand is a Democrat, but she’s easily the most conservative Democrat in the state’s caucus. Indeed, just yesterday, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) told reporters she would challenge Gillibrand in a Senate primary in 2010, which is bound to cause some intra-party heartburn.

That said, it’ll be worth watching to see whether Gillibrand’s ideology “adapts” once she holds statewide office. She was pretty conservative while representing one of the state’s most conservative districts (the likelihood of Democrats keeping the seat is remote). As a senator, might she become more sympathetic to the progressive agenda? We’ll see.