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Kirsten Gillibrand: A Dynamic New Leader in the Senate

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At EMILY's List, we greeted the news that New York Governor David Paterson selected Kirsten Gillibrand to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate with cheers and celebration. How wonderful it will be to see this impressive young woman and mother add her perspectives and energy to the hallowed halls of the Senate!

Kirsten Gillibrand is a creative leader who is dedicated to public service. EMILY's List endorsed her campaigns for Congress, confident in her 100 percent commitment to reproductive freedom. A champion of progressive values, Kirsten also earned endorsements from the Human Rights Campaign for her commitment to LGBT equality, and the League of Conservation Voters for her commitment to protecting the environment.

Senator-designate Gillibrand
represents a new generation of young leaders who understand the way technology has reshaped our world. A cofounder of the Congressional High Tech Caucus, she pioneered openness in Congress by posting her schedule online so her constituents could see exactly whom she meets with and why. She's a model for the kind of transparency and accountability Americans yearn for from their elected officials. Kirsten's also no stranger to old-fashioned grassroots outreach -- since she was elected, she's held regular open "office hours" at local grocery stores throughout her district to stay in touch with the ordinary families whose lives she knows are profoundly affected by her actions in Congress.

Kirsten Gillibrand won a solidly Republican House seat in 2006 by defeating a corrupt, four-term Republican incumbent. Some thought it was a fluke, and Republicans targeted her for defeat early. But in 2008, Gillibrand handily defeated a well-known, well-funded GOP challenger -- a former statewide official and head of the state Republican Party, no less -- winning 62 percent of the vote.

I'm confident that one of Senator-designate Gillibrand's first jobs will be to reach out to leaders across the state for advice about a legislative agenda that will benefit New York. She will build bridges that will help her defend this seat against a Republican challenge in 2010, whether it come from Rudy Giuliani or a member of the GOP congressional delegation. Those who favored other candidates for the seat may grumble, but they'd do well to rally around her re-election in two years. This new senator is a formidable candidate who has proven her toughness by winning two difficult back-to-back campaigns. Coming from the Albany area, she brings upstate appeal to the ticket. She's a fundraising powerhouse, having raised nearly $5 million for her last House campaign. And she has the full support of leaders like Senator Chuck Schumer, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Obama, who recognize what a valuable ally she will be in the Senate.

I commend Governor Paterson for understanding the importance of having women serve in the highest echelons of government. In Gillibrand, he has appointed the Senate's youngest member -- and won't it be a welcome sight to see this young mother of two serving alongside her 16 female colleagues amid the remaining 82 male senators, all but one white, most in their 60s or older.

Ellen Malcolm is the president of EMILY's List.