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Though she was once near the top of the GOP's 2008 target list, Kirsten Gillibrand won her first re-election easily, beating "moderate" Republican multi-millionaire Sandy Treadwell by almost 2-1.

This is close to, if not, the reddest Congressional district in New York, with about 80,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

It was drawn to be Miami Mob Leader John Sweeney's district for a decade.

With a vigorous campaign, supported by the Clintons, unions, the netroots, and the votes of lots of nominal Republicans, Gillibrand took Sweeney out with 53 percent of the vote two years ago; Tuesday, with less Clintons and netroots help, she upped that to 62 percent.

Details, below.

For almost two years, Gillibrand worked the district hard, doing exemplary constituent service and holding dozens of Congress at Your Corner meet-ups with constituents on weekends.

I attended several of them, and Gillibrand was simply excellent in explaining her stands on national issues, and in connecting with people.

Most who met her, at these events and others, voted for her, no matter what their registration.

Gillibrand is smart, informed, caring, charming and really impressive in person.  

And she's a fund-raising dynamo, raising $3.5 million-plus this year to counter Treadwell's GE trust fund, which dumped $5 million or so into a bunch of Pataki-hack consultants and lousy TV ads that began running in early summer.

The Gillibrand/Treadwell race was, according to the Times Union, the most expensive in the country this year.

Sweeney refused to debate Gillibrand last time, a smart move in retrospect since she easily won the two televised debates with Treadwell this time.

Treadwell spent six or seven figures trying to dirty up Gillibrand because, as a junior associate at a Manhattan law firm, she worked to defend Phillip Morris in the 1990s.

Treadwell funded oppo research by a fellow Pataki hack, which resulted on a front-page Times Union story and launched a website and several TV and radio ads devoted to this "issue."

I asked her about the tobacco thing at a fund-raiser last week, and she said she could either do the work that her superiors assigned, or leave the firm and look for another job.

Obviously, most voters got that.

From a netroots/progressive perspective, Gillibrand is not perfect.

She joined the Blue Dog Caucus, and has voted to fund the Iraq War and for the FISA extension.

But we must have a big tent for our majority party, and netroots types generally understand that representatives of blood-red districts will sometimes vote for bills we dislike.

But the vast majority of the time, Gillibrand is on our side.

FWIW, here are some of Gillibrand's 2007 interest group ratings (0-100 for most, A-F for some), which are so much better than what Sweeney or Treadwell would have gotten:

Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform -- 5

ACLU -- 100

The Club for Growth -- 2

National Education Association -- A

Christian Coalition -- 8

League of Conservation Voters -- 95

James Dobson's Family Research Council -- 5

AFL-CIO -- 96

Drum Major Institute for Public Policy -- A

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America -- A

National Rifle Association -- A

National Organization for Women -- 100.

I did not follow every vote Gillibrand made in this Congress, but these interest groups followed a lot of them.

And her rankings are, I think, quite good, and would be even for a Member of Congress from a less-blood-red district.

In sum, Gillibrand's re-election is a testament to her hard work, to Obama's popularity, and to the fact that notionally blood-red districts contain a lot of Republicans who will vote for a good Democratic candidate.

In upstate New York, anyway.

P.S. Gillibrand won re-election even though she gave birth to her second son in May, which sidelined her politically for a couple of months.


Originally posted to devtob on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 05:28 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great diary - she's a rising star (11+ / 0-)

    I was born and raised in this district. Gillibrand is exactly the type of candidate who plays well in Upstate NY: thoughtful, hard-working, looking out for the working people and families in the district, etc.

    I was worried about this race. Was her 2006 victory a result of Sweeney's personal... "challenges," shall we say? Did she have the power to fight off a guy who was playing the moderate card very well?

    In the end, Arcuri next door had a tiiiiiight win, and Gillibrand romped. Let's hope she keeps this up!

  •  Tip jar (22+ / 0-)

    I wrote several Gillibrand diaries last time; this is my first this year.

    In part because of the Iraq War and FISA votes, which I did not want to have a pie fight about.

    And in part because she was such an excellent freshman Member of Congress that I thought she would win handily, no matter what happened here.

    Her easy win is great news, that all Democrats should celebrate.  

    The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

    by devtob on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 05:35:10 PM PST

  •  I am delighted that she won. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, Norbrook, Deejay Lyn

    I was aware of all of her hard work for her constituents, but I was also aware of Treadwell's backers and money.  He got real sleezy for a man of obvious class, but it backfired.  Even the local news channels were disgusted with him.

    Will they ever learn?

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 05:36:14 PM PST

    •  It was nothing on 2006 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Compared to that, it was nicer.  We got the media coverage full bore here, and by the time the ads two years ago were done, you could have made a case for both of them being in jail. (sigh)  The bad part is we get the media coverage for it, but I'm in NY-23, which is the reddest district in the state.

      I think that I have had enough of you telling me how things will be. Today I choose a new way to go ... and it goes through you!

      by Norbrook on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 05:56:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Treadwell's "obvious class" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      was not evident in the last month of the campaign.

      He was paying lots of money to D'Amato/Pataki consultants, who believe they can only win by besmirching their opponents as city liberal types.

      That strategy didn't work against Gillibrand, as it has not in many statewide and legislative races lately.

      The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

      by devtob on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 06:06:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Drum Major Institute for Public Policy? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, Norbrook

    What's that all about?

  •  I am confused ;-) (5+ / 0-)

    The Club for Growth -- 2

    Gillibrand won re-election even though she gave birth to her second son in May

    Oh, I suppose it is not that kind of Growth.

  •  Not smaller government, but better government (4+ / 0-)

    For years government hasn't worked.

    Republicans have gotten a lot of votes by bashing government. Nobody wants an inefficient and incompetent government sticking their nose in their business.

    However, Democrats believe that if government is broken, then let's fix it. Let's make government work. It's our government.

    Kristen Gillibrand is connecting with people and doing her part to make government work for her constituents. That's how she wins.

    "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." - Will Rogers

    by wayward on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 05:41:00 PM PST

  •  Treadwell had been campaigning since this spring (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, Norbrook, Deejay Lyn

    and had his name in the papers opining on running in the winter and he basically spent his own money, the RNCC basically implored their candidates to be filthy rich and use their own cash, to make this one of the most expensive congressional races ever, only to get trounced while ruining his reputation of being a rather moderate man in a no-name job under Pataki to a partisan Republican opportunist who at the final stretch starting using visuals of Ground Zero and Iwo Jima.

    "An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot." Thomas Paine

    by Cait Strummer on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 05:41:44 PM PST

    •  Treadwell ran lots of TV ads (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Norbrook, Deejay Lyn, Cait Strummer

      He was positive/biographical early, and more negative late.

      But he could not give voters a rational reason to vote against the excellent Kirsten Gillibrand.

      Who will represent this blood-red district for as long as she wants.

      The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

      by devtob on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 05:49:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Treadwell ran a vanity race (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, Norbrook

    Six million dollars of his own money, and he couldn't really explain why he wanted the job. Maybe to make himself feel important, since he hasn't done much else with his life.

    What a waste. That money could have gone to a worthy charity to help people.

  •  "Blood Red"? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's great that she won, but you are exaggerating how "blood red" NY-20 is. In 2004, it was a Bush 54-Kerry 46% district. That's an entirely do-able district with a good candidate. It's hardly western Nebraska or the north side of Dallas.

    •  The 80K registration disadvantage (0+ / 0-)

      qualifies as blood-red, in upstate New York anyway.

      I agree that the 20th is not the most-blood-red nationally, but Gillibrand's accomplishment is remarkable, nonetheless.

      Mike Arcuri, another upstate NY Dem freshman in a less-red district (NY-24), barely won re-election.

      The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

      by devtob on Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 06:38:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, what's the deal in NY-24? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        That one attracted zero pre-election attention nationally, but it turned out to be quite a squeaker. What happened?

        •  I'd like to know (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          devtob, davybaby

          I'd really like to know this one, too.

          I've seen very ltitle about Arcuri since he took office. I'm not sure if it's a case of him simply not getting his name out there, not making enough of a connection with constituents, to build a profile for re-election. Gillibrand certainly was active on that front, and I think it makes the difference.

      •  Big divergence between reg and party id (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        That is why many people overstate the republican orientation of this district. It is more R than D, but not by that much, and the plurality of voters are self-identified independents, who went big for Gillibrand.

  •  I live near John Sweeney and I put up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    lots of Gillibrand signs all around his house. He takes them down and trashes them, but I keep putting them back up. You should see the condition I find some of them in! He really must go into a fitful rage over them!

    •  Sweeney's a poor loser (0+ / 0-)

      who never personally conceded to Gillibrand.

      I assume Clifton Park voted for Gillibrand again, which must really stick in Sweeney's craw.

      The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

      by devtob on Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 04:42:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This district is near Albany (0+ / 0-)

    And that means lots of state workers which affects the party registration stats.  Many opt to be "blanks", NY-speak for registered voters who are  unenrolled in any party.  To some state workers, that's camouflage so that no matter who's in power, they're not the wrong flavor. In many towns, the blanks outnumber either the Dems or Reps. Outside of the cities, I think the district is strongly Republican, perhaps even more than the actual party designation would indicate. It was gerrymandered to be a Repub district.

    Treadwell was running ads last year focusing on curtailing/cutting local property taxes (always a hot-button issue in property tax-obssessed NY), but an odd platform issue for a Congressional candidate.  

  •  I live in Kirsten Gillibrand's district and... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    while she is a great candidate, other factors contributed to her election and her reelection.  Here they are:

    1. John Sweeney was a horrible candidate.  He beat his wife and no one likes that.  He also brought few benefits home to the district.
    1. Gillibrand benefited from George W. Bush's horrible approval ratings and two change elections in which many people didn't want to vote for the Republican.
    1. Obama's coattails helped Gillibrand win reelection in 2008.

    The question is if Gillibrand can will reelection against a strong Republican candidate in one of the most conservative districts in New York in 2010 and without benefiting from George W. Bush's unpopularity and Obama's popularity.  It will be a close race.

    I am proud to admit that I come from one of the districts that had the least votes for George W. Bush in the entire country.

    by ThePrometheusMan on Fri Nov 07, 2008 at 11:28:14 PM PST

  •  Obama carried NY-20! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This area's definitely changing from it's uber-Republican past...

    Dutchess, Saratoga and Washington Counties gave a Democratic presidential candidate a majority vote for only the second time since the Civil War!

    Obama carried Sandy Treadwell's Essex County by 14 points! And when was the last time a federal Democrat of any stripes was able to eke out this kind of a victory in Essex of all places?! Since when does the old childhood playground of Teddy Roosevelt go blue? After all folks, it wasn't so long ago that Essex County was as blood red as nearby Hamilton County. I guess the term "Essex County Democrat" isn't such an oxymoron anymore...

    Even in Gerry Solomon's home turf, rural, ultra-conservative Warren County, McCain squeaked by Obama with a measly 6 votes! (Yes, this is the same county where W. took 55% in '04, H.W. Bush took 64% in '88, Reagan took 75% in '84, and Gerald Ford took 66% in '76) For the first time in nearly a half a century, a Democratic presidential candidate broke 40% in the towns of Chester, Lake Luzerne, and Warrensburg.

    Good ol' Gerry must be rolling around in his grave!

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