UPDATE: In an effort to clear the field for Kirsten Gillibrand's 2010 Senate race, the City Hall is reporting that President Obama used Rahm Emanuel as muscle to keep Rep. Steve Israel from entering the race, offering a stiff ultimatum if Israel decided to run.
So Israel was given an ultimatum: if he proceeded with the Senate race, the White House would go to great pains to shut off every dollar in the state. With Schumer's help, the administration would make sure all the big Democratic donors and institutional players kept their distance. They would show no restraint, even campaigning against him and raising money in Israel's own home turf. Obama himself would come out to campaign in New York City, cutting off at the knees the downstate, Manhattan-focused appeal Israel would have needed to run to Gillibrand's left. And perhaps most damning of all, given whom the math dictated Israel would have needed in his column, Emanuel indicated that the nation's first black president was prepared to barnstorm through New York's black neighborhoods hand-in-hand with the junior senator, employing his appeal to African-Americans to a political degree he usually avoids. Oh, and as for Israel having any role shaping policy in the House while all this was going on? Forget it
Israel's spokesperson is via Greg Sargent denying reports that Emanuel made any such threat.
It turns out, however, that Rahm never made the threat, according to Israel's chief of staff, Jack Pratt. He says he got the denial straight from the Congressman himself. "It's just not true," Pratt told me.
Pratt said that he had been standing outside the room during the conversation at the White House between Israel and Rahm, and that there was no staff inside.
Pratt did confirm, however, that the White House did signal that they wanted Israel to steer clear of a primary -- but that the meeting didn't carry any real suggestion of bigfooting or threats.
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Two Democratic challengers may soon announce their candidacy for Kirsten Gillibrand's New York Senate seat, according to multiple reports.
Congressman Steve Israel from Long Island is set to announce as early as this week, according to the New York Post. However, Glenn Thrush notes that Israel will likely be forming an exploratory committee, rather than announcing his candidacy, which will "give him an out if things don't go well."
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from Manhattan, may also announce her intent to run in 2010, although she has hinted she may not run if there is another candidate in the race.
According to the New York Daily News, Chuck Schumer, the senior Senator from New York, has privately said he won't "crusade" on Gillibrand's behalf during the campaign, but Schumer's office adamantly denies this report.
Schumer has been very supportive of Gillibrand in the Senate, helping her get choice committee assignments and adding her name to federal funding projects he helped secure for the state, according to a New York Times story.
Gillibrand was picked by New York Governor David Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton when the senator became Secretary of State.