She’s the incredibly shrinking senator.
Kirsten Gillibrand has become so “invisible” — according to one of her ex-staffers and other observers — she would easily lose a primary challenge to lefty Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“There are any number of state lawmakers, local officials and members of the delegation –including AOC — who could mount a very, very credible challenge and quite likely beat her,” the ex-staffer said, adding that his once vigorous former boss now seemed “bored” in the Senate and is missing in action statewide.
“It wouldn’t at all surprise me if there were truth to the rumors that she’s not planning to run, but instead is on the lookout for an administration position or a cushy private sector job,” the insider added.
Longtime city Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf agreed: “AOC can beat Kirsten Gillibrand. AOC will raise the money. She can beat her because Kirsten Gillibrand is the invisible senator. She has done very little to cement that incumbency and the electorate is angry and she has done nothing to address the issues that matter — which are COVID, crime and job loss in New York State.”
“I see [senior NY Sen. Chuck] Schumer all the time. I never see Gillibrand. I don’t know why New York only has one senator,” sniffed one Democratic state senator.
Even Gillibrand’s residency is invisible.
She sold her five-bedroom home in upstate Brunswick in 2020. She is currently registered to vote at an Albany address owned by her mother. A stately DC townhouse the family owned was sold this month for $2 million.
Evan Lukaske, a spokesman for Gillibrand, said his boss was “continuing to look for a new home.”
“The senator rents an apartment in DC and lives in Albany when in New York,” Lukaske said.
Her legislating is also imperceptible.
A study by the nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking said Gillibrand, 55, was among the least effective senators in the previous Congress, ranked 39th of 45 among Democrats, with not a single “substantive” bill she proposed becoming law.
In the last Congress she missed more than 15% of votes — the ninth worst record of her colleagues, according to GovTrack. Schumer missed fewer than 1%.
A public schedule for Gillibrand shows she held a COVID press conference with Rep. Carolyn Maloney last month. Many other days record “no official business.”
Gillibrand didn’t make the list of Crain’s 2021 ranking of the 50 most powerful women in New York, overshadowed by, among others, Attorney General Letitia James, city first lady Chirlane McCray and late night host Amber Ruffin.
The senator has lately preoccupied her office with studying UFOs.
Gillibrand was selected by then-Gov. Paterson in 2009 to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton. Gillibrand won a special election in 2010 to keep the seat, and was re-elected to full terms in 2012 and 2018.
Some observers cited her disastrous 2020 presidential campaign as a turning point. The effort ended with friends and former aides begging her to drop out. By the end she was hawking her own merchandise for pennies in a last ditch effort to raise enough cash to qualify for the debates.
“Since the presidential campaign she is totally checked out. She seems less engaged in policy making and completely MIA from the political scene,” said one top female Democratic consultant in New York. “Prior to presidential race, you couldn’t turn on your TV without seeing her and now it’s like you haven’t heard a peep out of her.”
Team Gillibrand said the premise she has disengaged is “fanciful BS.”
“Senator Gillibrand loves serving the people of New York and looks forward to running for re-election,” Lukaske said. “Senator Gillibrand had a net favorable rating of +39 among Democratic primary voters in a September Siena Poll and will close the year with nearly $3 million cash on hand three years out from her next election Senator Gillibrand has no interest in an administration job or the private sector; anyone who claims otherwise clearly has zero relationship with her, nor any insight into her thinking.”
Though she has made national headlines for leadership on issues such as sexual assault in the military, many remember her less fondly for leading the charge against Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who had faced allegations of sexual misconduct.
Seven current and former senators who pressured Franken to quit told The New Yorker they now regret how it went down — citing a rush to judgment and circumventing a Senate Ethics Committee investigation that had been underway.
Franken himself has cropped up in the Big Apple, fueling speculation that he might primary his old foe — though he insists he’s not interested.
Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, has set much of the political world ablaze with speculation that she might challenge either Schumer or Gillibrand. The pair will face Democratic primaries in 2022 and 2024 respectively.