You have to go back 44 years to find another senator with upstate roots as deep as Kirsten Gillibrand’s.
In 1968, Charles Goodell was appointed by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to succeed Robert Kennedy in the U.S. Senate after his assassination while running for president the previous June.
Goodell was born in Jamestown, where he served several terms in Congress before accepting the appointment to the Senate.
Before that, you have to go back to Geneseo native James Wadsworth to find another U.S. senator with deep ties to upstate. He served from 1915 to 1927.
We would be the first to acknowledge Gillibrand’s Republican challenger, Wendy Long, faced long odds in getting our endorsement for the U.S. Senate and that begins with Gillibrand’s upstate roots.
We often feel New York’s problems are not so much Democrats vs. Republicans, but upstaters vs. downstaters. It is as if our state breeds two species of politicians and neither one is able to understand the other.
Gillibrand faced long odds to win the local 20th Congressional District seat when she ran against Republican incumbent John Sweeney in 2006, and few gave her much of a chance.
We remember her coming in for an editorial board meeting at our newspaper a full year before the election. She proved quickly she was a serious candidate, willing to work hard to understand the district and its problems. When Sweeney self-destructed in the closing weeks of that race, Gillibrand turned a double-digit deficit into a victory speech on election night and reelection two years later — unprecedented for a Democratic candidate in this region.
She proved to be an energetic and passionate advocate of all local issues. She established congress-on-your-corner meetings in communities all across the district and was far more accessible than Sweeney had ever been. She was one of the first members of Congress to show her commitment to transparency by listing every meeting on her website, especially those with lobbyists. She found a home for herself on the agriculture committee and worked hard for local farmers.
You would be hard-pressed to find a political candidate who has risen as fast as Gillibrand in the past six years, and we believe she is still learning on the job.
It is rare that we get the chance to know a U.S. senator, but in this case, we feel we know Gillibrand and what she stands for and believe she will be an outstanding advocate for upstate New York and the Glens Falls region in the future.
That’s not to say she does not come with baggage.
We would be the first to acknowledge a concern with some of her changes of heart, especially regarding gun control.
As an upstate congresswoman, Gillibrand was a very moderate Democrat in a Republican district. Being a U.S. senator from New York comes with being far more liberal on many issues than we are comfortable with.
Her challenger told us in a meeting with our editorial board, “She has voted much differently (in the Senate) than she did as an upstate congresswoman.”
That is undeniable.
Long is a candidate with an impressive resume that includes clerking for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and starting the Judicial Confirmation Network, to provide aid to conservative justices in their confirmation hearings.
Long’s politics are conservative, but she also painted herself as an outsider dissatisfied with career politicians who have made Washington an out-of-control bureaucracy. She pledged to make across-the-board cuts in every department in the federal government, including defense. She said there were no sacred cows.
“This is not an election, it is an emergency,” Long said.
In the recent debate at Skidmore College, Gillibrand said “fracking” needed more study, while Long pronounced the drilling technique for natural gas safe and said a certain amount of methane in drinking water was normal and not dangerous.
It was a jaw-dropping moment for some of us on the editorial board who believe otherwise.
We still believe Gillibrand brings upstate sensibilities to her job and is far more moderate than some of her recent stands in the Senate. Obviously, politics corrupts all candidates to some degree.
But we also fear Long’s politics are too far right to allow for any constructive compromise in the years to come, something we believe is absolutely necessary to move our country forward.
We’d like to see what Sen. Gillibrand can do with a full term in the Senate. We believe she is still learning and believe she will never forget her upstate roots. We believe those upstate values will serve her and all of New York well in the U.S. Senate.
Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Mark Bergman.