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Gillibrand gets nod from state Dems to seek re-election

WBFO file photo

New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, was officially nominated for re-election Friday at a meeting of the State Democratic Party in Albany, where she said she will serve out her entire six-year term if she wins the race in November.

Gillibrand, who was unanimously nominated to run for a second full term, focused her speech in part on Democratic frustrations over lack of gun control laws in Washington in the aftermath of the Florida high school mass shooting.  She said Americans are being “slaughtered,” and Congress is “turning a blind eye.”

“Congress has caved over and over again to the enormous pressure from the NRA and the gun industry, which just wants to protect their profits,” Gillibrand said to applause. “If not now, then when? This is a monumental failure of leadership.”  

Gillibrand, who is a former congresswoman from a conservative-leaning upstate district, once said that she kept her own gun under her bed. While holding that seat, she received an “A” rating from the NRA for her views on gun rights. Gillibrand, speaking to reporters after her speech, repeated what she first said on the CBS news program 60 Minutes last Sunday: She regrets that position and no longer feels that way.

“As I’ve said before, I was wrong,” Gillibrand said. “I don’t think I spent enough time talking to families who were suffering from issues of gun violence across the state.”  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the head of the state’s Democratic Party, did not attend the meeting, even though his offices are just a few blocks away from the Labor Hall where it was held.

Cuomo has had fewer public appearances during the ongoing federal corruption trial of his former top aide, Joe Percoco on bribery charges. During the trial, numerous witnesses have portrayed a pay-to-play atmosphere in Cuomo’s offices, where top donors received special treatment. The governor has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Gillibrand was asked what she thinks of the pay-to-play allegations brought up in the trial.

“I only know what I’ve read, and it’s all very, very disturbing,” she said.

Gillibrand recently announced she would not take any funding from super PACs for her re-election campaign.

The senator has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2020, but she said if she wins in November, she plans to serve a full term. She was asked if that means she’s ruling out running for president in the next cycle.

“I’m really focused on ’18, and I think all of us should,” said Gillibrand, who added she’d like to help flip the House and Senate to the Democrats.

“I’d like to be part of that and keep serving in the U.S. Senate,” she said.

The unanimous nomination means Gillibrand will not have a primary challenge. Potential opponents include Chele Chiavacci Farley, a private equity executive and fundraiser, who is seeking the Republican Party nomination.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.