Kirsten Gillibrand made her way to the U.S. Senate in some of the most awkward circumstances imaginable. She was the eventual pick of then-New York Gov. David Paterson, who appointed her to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a messy, protracted process best remembered for the way Caroline Kennedy abruptly, and controversially, entered the mix, only to make an equally abrupt exit from consideration.
When Gillibrand ended up with the seat, reactions varied widely, and she was generally thought to be in a vulnerable position, electorally speaking. But Gillibrand went on to prove herself as one of the most durable politicians in the Senate, and she will easily retain her seat in 2012. As of this writing, Gillibrand is well ahead of her opponent -- attorney Wendy Long -- in the HuffPost Pollster average, with 63.9 percent to Long's 24.0 percent. Gillibrand has had a staggering fundraising advantage throughout the race.
The Center for Responsive Politics has a list of the key contributors to each campaign.