Saturday, January 24, 2009

A nod to New York's rural reaches in the Kirsten Gillibrand pick?

The New York Times story about Kirsten Gillibrand's selection to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate features several references to rurality and farms. This is not surprising, perhaps, since Ms. Gillibrand is the U.S. Representative for the 20th Congressional District that includes Albany, but also stretches west and north of that city.

Here is the lede from the story by Michael Powell and Raymond Hernandez (emphasis mine):
She would seem the longest of long shots, this young, centrist Democrat from rural upstate New York who was just re-elected to her second term in Congress and is now inheriting the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Powell and Hernandez note that one of her committee assignments is a "plum" position on the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, and that she has a 100% approval rating by the NRA.

The story suggests that her Gillibrand's local credentials and suitability for representing this mixed rural-urban upstate district were challenged when she initially ran for the seat in 2006. Gillibrand had worked as a lawyer in NYC in various capacities before that run, and Republicans attacked her as "more familiar with the price of dog-walkers in Manhattan than the price of a six-pack at Stewart's." But Gillibrand apparently adapted to her new upstate district. Powell and Hernandez report that she quickly "became a ubiquitous and studiously folksy presence at malls and county fairs," accumulating almost $5 million in donations.

Later in the story, Powell and Hernandez described her performance at yesterday's news conference, again with rural references (again, emphasis mine):
But she can project a wide-eyed, from-the-farm belt style, one much on display at the Friday’s news conference in Albany, where she alternated odes to motherhood with near-scholarly disquisitions on her opposition to the Wall Street bailout.
Many of the photos in the NYT slide show about Gillibrand have agriculture and/or rural themes. In short, Gillibrand looks like the kind of person who knows her way around a dairy farm, though she is the child of a lobbyist, not a farmer.

Also of interest is the apparent distrust that downstate (urban) Democrats feel for Ms. Gillibrand, though it seems that distrust is more about substance, issues and perhaps style than about geography -- though these categories are not mutually exclusive.

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