Steve Israel to challenge Gillibrand?


Rep. Steve Israel is reportedly going to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for New York’s Democratic primary nomination for Senate in 2010. CQPolitics reports today that the Jewish Democrat  from Long Island has told fellow members of the Empire State’s congressional delegation will take on Gillibrand, who was appointed to the seat in January to replace Hillary Clinton:

“An announcement is imminent,” said one aide to a Democratic member of the New York delegation.

Israel’s spokeswoman said there are no plans for such an announcement this week. “The only announcement the congressman has planned for this week is about a Smart Grid proposal for Long Island,” Lindsay Hamilton said in an e-mail.

Israel, a 50-year-old in his 5th term from Long Island’s 2nd District, represents the most serious threat thus far to Gillibrand, who was appointed to the seat by New York Gov. David Paterson earlier this year when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (2001-2009) became secretary of State. Israel also was in the running for the appointment.

Several veteran politicians, including Democratic Reps. Carolyn McCarthy from Long Island’s 4th District and Carolyn Maloney from the Upper East Side’s 14th District, are considered possible candidates for the seat. Also interested in a potential run are Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Suffolk County Legislature Majority Leader Jon Cooper.

Gillibrand, though, does have one important backer — the senior senator from New York, Charles Schumer. As the New York Times reported last week:

Ms. Gillibrand faces steep challenges as she tries to win over skeptical Democrats after a shaky debut as the state’s new senator. But in ways that are surprising and angering her rivals in the party, Mr. Schumer has quietly made her success his cause too.

Days after she was appointed, Mr. Schumer arranged for the two of them to dine with the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, where he pressed Mr. Reid to give Ms. Gillibrand the committee assignments she wanted.

Mr. Schumer has also put Ms. Gillibrand’s name alongside his on announcements of projects throughout the state for which he secured federal funding.

Mr. Schumer has invited the rookie senator to accompany him on trips around the state, introducing her to audiences from Binghamton to Manhattan. And he has steered her to deep-pocketed donors and held a Washington fund-raiser for her that brought in $50,000.

These gestures are unusual for the often sharp-elbowed Mr. Schumer, whose relationship with Ms. Gillibrand’s predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was at times marked by wariness and competition.

The help comes at a critical time for Ms. Gillibrand, who needs to make gains among New York voters, especially downstate liberal Democrats, with whom Mr. Schumer is broadly popular.

Mr. Schumer has praised Ms. Gillibrand as a political “natural.” But his intervention on her behalf appears to be driven by more than just admiration.

Longtime advisers to Mr. Schumer said that he likes the fact that Ms. Gillibrand has been deferential to him and is open to his guidance, while Mrs. Clinton pursued her own path.

In addition, Mr. Schumer — who close associates say harbors ambitions to someday be the Senate majority leader — has elevated his profile by helping his party pull off a string of Senate victories, and he feels personally responsible for blocking Republicans from capturing a seat in his state.

Mr. Schumer has concluded that Ms. Gillibrand, a tireless fund-raiser and campaigner, is capable of holding onto the seat, provided she does not have to go through a bruising primary, according to his associates.

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