Kirsten Gillibrand for president again? Probably. Governor, as a possible stepping stone? Not so much.
At the moment, the junior senator from New York is gathering support to reform the way the military prosecutes serious crimes. She is pushing to capitalize on Democratic control of Congress for other long-term priorities, such as making gun trafficking a federal crime.
In an interview on Sunday, Gillibrand said she stands by what she told POLITICO in May: She “definitely” wants to run for president again.
“But if I do run again, I would like to be successful,” she said. The timing for a second try will likely depend on whether her work succeeds in elevating her name on a national level.
Running for governor of New York might elevate her profile — it’s worked for nearly a dozen New York governors who won their party’s presidential nomination. But embattled three-term Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems set on running for a fourth term next year, and Gillibrand says she has no interest in his job, not in 2022, not ever.
Gillibrand, a native of Albany born into a highly political family, said state politics doesn’t capture her interest quite the way her work on the federal level — particularly in national security-related committees assignments — does. “I’ve been on Armed Services now for 10 years, I’m now on Intel, and I’m really enjoying the portfolio,” she said. “So I’ve never really thought about it or aspired to it, and I really like serving in the Senate."
What’s more, she appears to have enjoyed her time in the national spotlight. Unlike some candidates in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary, Gillibrand reports fond memories and few complaints about the campaign trail, saying she “loved the experience” and her five-month campaign made her “a better senator, a better legislator and a better speaker.”
But the country needed the certainty of a name they knew and trusted, she said, and Gillibrand didn’t fit the bill the way Joe Biden did.
“I mean, I had a name recognition of less than 1 percent, so I have a long way to go,” she said. “But that’s why Joe Biden was perfect for the moment. So I if I ever run again, I would hope that I would run from a place of people knowing who I was and why I was running, what I cared about."
Gillibrand is up for reelection to a third term in 2024, and while her most-recent win was a breeze, it’s possible she may face a challenge from the left next time.
Still, despite her apparent lack of interest in moving into New York’s governor’s mansion, her name does come up when politicians and political observers game out what may happen in next year’s governor’s race.
Cuomo’s position remains precarious while New York waits for a report from state Attorney General Letitia James regarding multiple accusations of sexual harassment, reports that he used state resources to publish his pandemic memoir (for which he was paid $5.1 million) and allegations that his administration covered up the true toll of Covid-19 deaths among nursing home patients.
If the James report is damaging, it’s highly likely Cuomo will face a vigorous primary challenge should he choose to run again. Gillibrand’s name is likely to find its way into the conversation.
But it will be in vain, she insists.
"I don’t think it’s in my future," she said.