New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will report raising more than $3 million in campaign cash during the first quarter of the year, a personal best notched as the recently elected Democrat noticeably burnished her public profile and prepares for her third campaign since 2008.
Gillibrand — who a year ago was still viewed as a vulnerable appointee — said in an email thanking supporters that she broke the $3 million mark for the federal reporting period ending Thursday. Elected to fill the unexpired term of Hillary Rodham Clinton in November, Gillibrand now faces re-election to a full term in 2012, an unusual grind for senators who usually have six years between expensive campaigns.
"We have given our potential opponents 3 million reasons to understand that a fight for our Senate seat won't be easy," Gillibrand said in the email obtained by The Associated Press. The full filing, due April 15, was not available.
Gillibrand has enjoyed a good run since winning 63 percent of the vote in November against Joseph DioGuardi, a little-known and underfunded former Republican congressman.
She has taken on high-profile roles in the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law for gay troops and the passage of legislation to provide benefits to Sept. 11 responders. Gillibrand also was a soothing presence on TV after the shooting in January of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a close friend of hers in Congress.
Recent polls have shown her with her highest ratings as senator.
"She's now shaping a political persona that really wasn't there when she was running last year. She was vulnerable with a capital 'V,'" said Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff, who said Gillibrand's election gave her more credibility.
Gillibrand, elected to Congress in 2006 in what had been a Republican stronghold for decades, was largely unknown outside of her upstate district when she was the surprise pick of then-Gov. David Paterson to fill the seat vacated by Clinton in January 2009. She was still trying to establish herself statewide in early 2010 while fending off a possible intra-party challenge from former Congressman Harold Ford Jr.
No Republicans have formally announced a challenge to Gillibrand in 2012.