Kirsten Gillibrand Tapped to Fill Hillary's Senate Seat

Long Island Congresswoman criticizes Paterson's appointment

Gov. David Paterson appointed Democratic U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday to fill New York's vacant Senate seat, finally settling on a woman from a largely rural, eastern district of the state to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I realize that for many New Yorkers, you don't know my name," she said at her introductory news conference Friday morning.

"I appreciate the opportunity that you have afforded me and the trust that you have placed in me," she told Paterson. "I realize
 that for many New Yorkers, this is the first time you've heard my name and you don't know much about me. But ... you will get to know me, and I will get to know you. I will represent the many diverse views and voices of the entire state as your senator."

The appointment, which requires no further confirmation, came one day after Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, abruptly withdrew from consideration.

Gillibrand, 42, has been considered one of the top contenders in Paterson's selection process, along with Kennedy and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Gillibrand had served as Cuomo's special counsel when he was housing secretary under President Clinton.

Paterson's appointment lasts until 2010, when a special election will be held to fill the final two years of Clinton's term. Clinton
 is now serving as secretary of state in President Barack Obama's administration.

"She is whip-smart and hard working," said Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York City.

"She has made helping upstate her mission, but she understands that New York City is the economic engine that makes the state go. I'm going to work hard to help her be a success. She was a great choice among a lot of great candidates."

Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, called the governor around midday Wednesday and told him she was
 having second thoughts about the job, according to a person close to Paterson, who said she later decided to remain in contention,
 only to announce her withdrawal early Thursday in an e-mail.

Who's Saying What?

Newly inaugurated President Barack Obama released a statement shortly after Gillibrand was introduced:

"Governor Paterson made a wonderful choice in appointing Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Secretary Clinton’s seat in the United States Senate. I am confident that she will continue Secretary Clinton’s distinguished service to the people of New York and to our country.

"During her career, Kirsten has been a strong voice for transparency and reform in government and shares the belief that government should be open, accessible and work for all of our citizens. In Congress and as special counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she worked to strengthen public and private partnerships to invest in infrastructure and New York’s economy."

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo also issued a statement:

"I extend my warmest congratulations to New York's new United States Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. I have had the pleasure of knowing her for many years. Kirsten came to Washington to join me at HUD where she did a superb job serving the nation. I have deep respect and affection for her. Her victory in the 2006 Congressional race defied the pundits and the polls. Kirsten is a genuine friend. I am sorry I could not be with her today, but look forward to many opportunities to partner with her in the future to help the state during these difficult times."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released the following statement in response to Paterson's appointment:

"I just spoke to Kirsten Gillibrand to congratulate her on this appointment and told her that I know she will be a superb Senator for the people of New York. I commend Gov. Paterson for choosing an effective Member of Congress and a proven problem solver who is committed to fiscal discipline, making America more secure and ensuring government is transparent and accountable. Gillibrand is a rising star in the Democratic Party who I am confident will quickly become a rising star here in the Senate and will pick up where Hillary Clinton left off in looking out for the interests of all New Yorkers. I look forward to welcoming her into the Democratic Caucus and working with her to pursue our ambitious agenda."

AP writers Valerie Bauman in Albany and Kimberly Hefling in Washington contributed to this report.

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