U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, left, debates challenger Wendy Long in the only debate prior to last week’s election. Gillibrand won her first full six-year term last week.
November 13, 2012From unknown to established incumbent in less than four years, Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand cruised to re-election, fending off a challenge from Republican Wendy Long.
Gillibrand gave a somber acceptance speech focusing on the heavy toll Superstorm Sandy took on New Yorkers and lauding the resilience of those hit the hardest.
"We are bound by something much more powerful than any storm. And while the road will be long and the road will be hard, we will rebuild better and stronger, and I will stand with you every single step of the way," Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand was in the unusual position of facing the voters twice in two years after being tapped in 2009 to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who became secretary of state. Gillibrand won the right to finish out the final two years of Clinton's old term in 2010. This time, she ran for a new six-year term.
With nearly all the precincts reporting, Gillibrand had captured more than 70 percent of the vote, a strong showing even in this reliably Democratic state.
The former upstate congresswoman initially got a chilly reception from some fellow New York Democrats who felt she was too conservative and lacked gravity. Gillibrand has steadily built up support statewide over the past three years, in part by taking on high-profile causes dear to the left, like gay rights and women in politics.
Gillibrand spent some of the year campaigning not for herself but for other Democratic women.
Long is a New York City lawyer with experience in conservative politics who was making her first run for public office. Long served as chief counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative advocacy group, and had done press work for Republican senators.
Her general election campaign, badly outspent by the Gillibrand campaign, was notable for its attacks on the incumbent's record and blaming policies the senator backed for New York's grim economic condition.
Much of Gillibrand's victory speech, delivered to Democrats at a Manhattan hotel on election night, was devoted to the government's response to Hurricane Sandy. Gillibrand said she supports the newly elected Obama administration in making the recovery a "no-red-tape" strategy.
"As we stand here this evening our state is in great crisis, 48 lives already been lost. The enormity has left our families struggling for basic human needs, lives have been shattered," the state's junior senator told the crowd.
Gillibrand raised concerns about the safety of New Yorkers still without power, food and supplies and she expressed how grateful she is to the volunteers who are pitching in after the natural disaster.
With 98 percent of the precincts reporting as of press time, Gillibrand had won 4,185,952 votes compared to Long's 1,544,083 votes.