In the midst of all the speculation surrounding the selection of Kirsten Gillibrand (D-20 NY) as the replacement for former Senator Clinton, I asked a friend from the Bronx if she knew who Kirsten Gillibrand was. "No", she replied, "You could tell me that she's the Postmaster General and I would believe you". And there lies the rub of New York politics. A state so vast that people from Manhattan are flummoxed by the idea of a place north of Albany and people from north of Albany think that the state is run by a bunch of liberal downstate politicians with no clue of the hardships that those north of Westchester face.
I am from Upstate. I was born, raised and currently reside here. Each pocket of Upstate comes with its own problems, especially moving westaward where once thriving cities have been brought to their knees. Which is why Governor Paterson's selection of Kirsten Gillibrand was a brilliant political move as if to let those Upstate know that their needs haven't been tossed to the wayside.
People will say she's one of us. Known for her monthly town hall meetings around the district which surrounds the capital city of Albany, but will she be able to bring such vastly different areas of the state together? Will she be able to advocate for all New Yorkers but especially those who are often left off the grid in a state that is laregely run by people hailing from the five boroughs? The senior Senator, Chuck Schumer, is known as a good guy from Brooklyn. He has never forgotten where he's from and has preserved strong ties to his state and neighborhood. He's been able to maintain the best of both worlds by leveraging his seniority in the Senate on behalf of his constituents. Which makes one wonder if our new junior Senator will be able to maintain her upstate roots and remember who she went to Washington to represent in the first place.
So, while we're up here in this relatively unknown area cheer on one of our own, a bit of healthy skepticism and nervousness remain. Will she be able to hold onto her seat in the 2010 election? Will she be able to advocate and bring a voice for a large section of the sstate that tends to remain forgotten and voiceless? Time will tell but for now we're up here in the snow rooting for her to succeed.
HeatherB also writes about living in Upstate NY at <a href="http://nopasanada.org">No Pasa Nada</a>. It's really, really cold there.
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