Gillibrand Promises to “Hit the Ground Running”

Vows to find balance between hunters' rights and combating gun violence

Senator-designate Kirsten Gillibrand pledged Sunday to combat gun violence while protecting hunters' rights, which she called "a core value" upstate.

Gillibrand, whose selection to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate was announced Friday by Gov. David Paterson, spoke briefly after meeting privately with Paterson, Clinton and Sen. Charles Schumer at a Manhattan hotel.

She promised to "hit the ground running" and said that on issues on which she differs from fellow Democrats, such as gun control, "there's enormous space for common ground."

Paterson's choice of Gillibrand to replace Clinton, who was sworn in as U.S. secretary of state last week, came after the presumed front-runner, Caroline Kennedy, withdrew from contention.

Asked at a news conference about Kennedy, Paterson said, "Caroline Kennedy called me on Wednesday ... to inform me that for personal reasons she had to withdraw. ... She had gotten no indication that she wouldn't be selected."

Neither Clinton nor Schumer attended the news conference.

Gillibrand, a second-term congresswoman from a rural upstate district, said Clinton "has always been a mentor of mine and someone I've always admired."

Gillibrand has a 100 percent voting record with the National Rifle Association, and her pro-gun record is at odds with the views of many politicians in New York City and other downstate areas. Anti-gun crusader Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed and whose son was wounded in a shooting massacre on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train in 1993, has vowed to challenge Gillibrand in the Democratic primary next year or find someone who will.

Appearing earlier on "Fox News Sunday, Schumer said he was happy with Paterson's choice but added that Gillibrand's district "is quite different than much of the state. It's very rural. In some ways, it's more like Montana than New York City."

Gillibrand didn't disagree.

"As I've said before, I grew up in a family of hunters," she said. "It's a pastime in upstate New York. It's a sport. It's something that's part of our heritage, part of our culture. So I very much believe in protecting hunters' rights, and I've always believed in protecting hunters' rights. ... It's a core value for our region and for our state."

But she acknowledged that "there's a lot of concern in our city communities about gun violence," and she said that while she represents all of New York, "my advocacy will be broader."

A Paterson spokeswoman said the governor's office delivered paperwork in Washington, D.C., on Sunday formalizing Gillibrand's appointment to the Senate. She said a swearing-in ceremony likely would take place Tuesday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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