Who is Kirsten Gillibrand? 5 things to know about the New York senator and 2020 candidate

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is running for president in 2020.

The New York Democrat announced her White House bid on Jan. 15 during an episode of Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show.”

From Troy, New York, Gillibrand, 52, said she’s running because she wants to “make a difference.”

“I believe in right vs. wrong – that wrong wins when we do nothing. Now is our time to raise our voices and get off the sidelines,” Gillibrand said in a tweet announcing her plans.

From being a mother to her work combating sexual assault in the military, read on for five things to know about Gillibrand.

She took Hillary Clinton’s old seat

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., replaced Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate in 2009.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., replaced Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate in 2009. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate in January 2009 by then-New York Gov. David Paterson after Hillary Clinton was tapped to be President Obama’s secretary of state. She beat Caroline Kennedy and Andrew Cuomo for the appointment.

She won her first election to the seat in 2010 and was re-elected in both 2012 and 2016.

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Gillibrand aided Clinton in her own Senate campaign. Adviser Ann Lewis told Time in 2009 that Gillibrand was a “natural organizer” and helped mobilize women to vote for Clinton.

Her grandmother was a powerful political figure in New York

Gillibrand’s grandmother, Polly Noonan, led the Albany Democratic Women’s Club for more than 30 years. She was closely tied to Albany Mayor Erastus Corning, advocated for women’s rights and was known for speaking her mind, according to The New York Times.

“As a 10-year-old girl, I would listen to my grandmother discuss issues, and she made a lasting impression on me,” Gillibrand once said. “What I admired so much about her was her passion. I thought, ‘Someday I may serve, someday I may be a part of this.’”

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Noonan, who Gillibrand described as her “greatest political hero,” died in 2003.

She’s a lawyer

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has served in Congress and worked as a lawyer. 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has served in Congress and worked as a lawyer.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Before she was a senator, Gillibrand worked as a lawyer and was elected to Congress twice.

Gillibrand worked as an attorney in both upstate New York and New York City and served as a law clerk on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, according to her Senate biography. She also served as special counsel to then-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo.

Gillibrand was first elected to Congress in 2006, defeating longtime incumbent Republican Rep. John Sweeney in New York’s 20th district. She won re-election in 2008.

She thought about running for Congress in 2004, but Clinton reportedly advised her to wait.

Gillibrand is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the UCLA School of Law. She’s married with two children.

She’s gone after sexual assault and harassment

In the Senate, Gillibrand has been one of the more outspoken lawmakers combatting sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military and on college campuses.

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With Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, Gillibrand pushed a bill in 2013 that would have created a new system for prosecuting military sexual assaults. She invited Emma Sulkowicz, an activist who gained national notoriety for her protests against how her university handled her sexual assault, to the State of the Union address in 2015.

She once had a perfect approval rating from the NRA

Gillibrand’s appointment to the Senate upset some New York gun control advocates. As a congresswoman, Gillibrand had a 100 percent approval rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Her NRA score has since been downgraded to an “F,” and she’s said she was “embarrassed” by her past positions on guns.

“After I got appointed, I went down to Brooklyn to meet with families who had suffered from gun violence in their communities. And you immediately experience the feeling that I couldn’t have been more wrong. You know, I only had the lens of upstate New York,” she said in 2018.

When her rating shot down, an NRA spokesman noted it was unusual for a lawmaker’s score to change so drastically in such a short amount of time.

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She has also changed her position on immigration. As a congresswoman, Gillibrand opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants, wanted English as the official U.S. language and called for local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws.