All presidential contenders bring baggage to their campaigns, and for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, the issue coming back to haunt her is political opportunism.
She defended herself Sunday against charges that she has done what it takes to advance her political career by, for example, switching positions on immigration and declaring in October that she would finish her six-year term, only to change her mind after winning re-election.
Then there’s the Al Franken matter. Some Democrats — including some top donors — still resent her for leading the charge against the Democratic senator from Minnesota, who resigned in 2017 amid multiple groping allegations.
Ms. Gillibrand insisted she had no regrets, arguing that Mr. Franken had “eight credible allegations of groping and sexual harassment against him,” and that his decision to step down was on him, not her.
“That was my decision, my decision not to remain silent,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Sen. Franken made his own decision. He was entitled to whatever process he wanted, he was entitled to stay in the Senate as long as he wanted, he chose to resign. And if some very wealthy donors in our party are angry about that, that’s on them.”
Among her critics are Democratic megadonor George Soros, who accused her of trying to “improve her chances” for a 2020 presidential bid by turning on Mr. Franken, according to The Washington Post.
On her previous tough stance on illegal immigration, Ms. Gillibrand said she “realized the things I had said were wrong.”
“I was not caring about others, I was not fighting for other people’s kids the same way I was fighting for my own, and I was wrong to feel that way,” she said.
Ms. Gillibrand, who has formed an exploratory committee for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, also denied that she had anything in common with President Trump, even when she campaigned for the House in 2008 on an anti-amnesty platform.
“This president has sown fear and division that just makes us weaker,” said Ms. Gillibrand, “I think what he’s done is so horrible and so mean-spirited that I am nothing like him and never will be, because my values haven’t changed.”
Asked whether her previous position on immigration was racist, she replied, “They certainly weren’t empathetic and they weren’t kind and I did not think about suffering in other people’s lives.”
The Buffalo News said in a Friday op-ed that she “flat-out lied” when she stated during an October debate that she would serve out her full Senate term if re-elected.
At the time, she said, “I will serve my six-year term.” What changed? She cited Sunday the Democratic Party’s success in flipping the House in November, adding, “It takes time to think about these things.”
“I needed time to make that decision, a real decision about whether this is something that I believe I am called to do, and I do believe that and that’s why I am running,” Ms. Gillibrand said.
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