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Public Statements

Press Conference With New York Governor David Paterson And Senator-Designate Kirsten Gillibrand

Press Conference

Location: Albany, NY

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GOV. PATERSON: (Applause.) Thank you. So it's August the 14th, 2003, and I am going to meet a lawyer who's going to be meeting me in an office building in Manhattan. She hails from the upstate region. And I am going to try to convince her not to run for Congress in 2004. I'd like her to run for the state senate, because at the time I'm the minority leader of the state senate.

And I go into the building to meet her, and suddenly, all the lights go out. This is the blackout of 2003. (Laughter.) So I told my assistant that Kirsten Gillibrand is eight-and-a-half months pregnant, so what we should do, instead of leaving, is we should wait down here -- I've never met her, but she's eight-and-a-half months pregnant -- and we should meet her. And perhaps we can drive her somewhere, because it may be very difficult to move around in the heat of the summer and in this blackout.

So we wait and we wait and we wait. And finally, about 45 minutes later, Kirsten comes through the door. And we went up and addressed her. And we found out two things.

Number one, the woman was not Kirsten. (Laughter.) And number two, she was not pregnant. (Laughter.)

Apparently, independent as always, Kirsten Gillibrand went out the back door and walked all the way to Penn Station. And so, this brings us to today. (Laughter.)

REP. GILLIBRAND: I'm not pregnant, anyway.

GOV. PATERSON: We just saw an orderly transference of power, pursuant to our Constitution, on Tuesday, where one president replaced another in the peaceful way that America has informed the world.

Today, our United States Constitution acts again. It empowers states to replace United States Senate seats when a seat becomes vacant. States have different ways of achieving this. New York is one of the overwhelming number of states that fills this vacancy based on a gubernatorial appointment.

I am privileged and yet responsible to make that appointment today. I appoint the senator from this moment on, until a special election. There is a special election. It will be held in November 2010. The Senate's regular seat ends in 2012, whereby there will be another election.

And so, in this interim period, I didn't ask for this responsibility, but it is my privilege and honor to execute our state statute this afternoon. And thank you all for joining us here in Albany. (Applause.)

When I became aware that this duty would fall on me, I set up a process to choose the senator. I began by asking those who were interested to submit their names to my office. I then interviewed all of the candidates that were interested. We issued a questionnaire for the candidates, to determine how they felt about a variety of issues. We had a process to determine if there was anything in any of the candidates' background that would eliminate them from consideration.

I then consulted with a number of citizens, with civic leaders, with leaders from the areas of business and labor, from health care and education, from elected officials and from individuals who had relationships with some or multiple numbers of the candidates.

Finally, I had to weigh this decision among all of those who were -- had been put before me, and came up with the decision. And today, I have reached one, and I believe that I have found the best candidate to become the next United States senator from New York. (Applause.)

I knew that I had to find someone who, in this difficult period, would find the best ways to educate our children. I knew I would have to find someone that would help, in a difficult period, administer health care.

I knew that we would have to address this economy, which continues to turn downward, and at the same time provide a way of monitoring our banks and financial institutions.

There are so many different areas in which the new senator will be able to help the citizens of New York and all Americans. And I feel that we have reached a decision that brings us our best candidate.

This decision was not based on gender, on geographic location, on race, religion or sexual orientation. This decision was made on who the best candidate would actually be.

This senator has great shoes to fill. This particular seat has previously been represented by icons such as Robert Francis Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The last senator from this district, who was sworn in as secretary of State this week, leaves very big shoes to fill. And we heard this morning, I did and so did Senator Schumer, from Senator Hillary Clinton.

Kirsten, she wants to extend you her best wishes and all the help you might possibly need in this new endeavor. She thinks you will be a great representative for the people of New York State. (Applause.)

Kirsten Gillibrand came to the House of Representatives in 2007, eschewing my offer to run for the State Senate by the way. (Laughter.) And she immediately introduced legislation that would implement the findings of the September 11th Commission.

She also introduced legislation that would require that our federal budget be balanced annually. Our state budget is balanced annually. Our federal budget is not. She introduced legislation to double the tax credit for child care and to extend, to every family, $10,000 of tax credit for tuition.

As a good government advocate, she has publicized her schedule online, becoming the first House of Representatives member to do that, and has publicized every earmark that she has received for her district. She's a member of the House Armed Services Committee and also the House Agriculture Committee.

On the Armed Services Committee, she has been on the Terrorism and Threats -- and Assessment Subcommittee and also the Seapower Subcommittee. On the Agriculture Committee, she has served on the Committee for Livestock and Dairy and Poultry; has also served on the committee for -- Conservation, Credit, Energy, Research Subcommittee and has also served on the Horticulture and Organic Agriculture Committee. So she has been busy in just one term in the House of Representatives. In addition to that, she is the founder of the High Technology Committee in the House of Representatives.

So with all of that work, she is dynamic, she is articulate, she is perceptive, she's courageous, she is outspoken. I am appointing her to the United States Senate representing New York today. Please welcome our next senator and current congresswoman, Kirsten Gillibrand. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. GILLIBRAND: Thank you, Governor, for this incredible honor. I appreciate the opportunity that you have afforded me and the trust that you place in me. We are all blessed to have an extraordinary, effective and committed leader during these very difficult times, and I look forward to being your partner as we lift ourselves out of this budget crisis and restore opportunity to all New Yorkers.

And thank you to our first lady, whose passion for children's issues and their future inspires all of us.

I realize that for many New Yorkers, this is the first time you've heard my name and you don't know much about me.

Over these next two years, you will get to know me, but much more importantly, I will get to know you.

As I represented the needs and the priorities of the 20th Congressional District of New York, I will represent the many diverse views and voices of the entire state as your senator. From the dairy farmers of western York, to the homeowners in Long Island facing crushing property taxes, to the workers who have lost their jobs in this economic crisis, to all the folks who work in our financial institutions, I intend to listen to all of my constituents and all of my colleagues in government to be part of the solution.

I'm so grateful to so many of you who are here, for your leadership and your service to our great state. Perhaps most significantly, I look to Secretary of State Clinton, whose seat with which Governor Paterson has now entrusted me, with extraordinary appreciation and humility. I aspire to follow in her footsteps, knowing her shoes I can only hope to fill. I cannot fully tell you how many times she has personally inspired me to action, but I will share just one.

When she was first lady, she stood before thousands of people in Beijing and she bravely called the world to action to recognize that women's rights are human rights, and human rights are women's rights. And I too, on that day, heard her call.

As a recent law school graduate in New York City, I decided to become active in politics and I started to organize women and lawyers, and I worked on campaigns across the state and nationally. And I remember working on her first campaign and watching her become this extraordinary advocate for New York families, from finding new customers for our farmers in her farm to -- excuse me -- Farm-to-Fork program, to tirelessly advocating for health care and benefits for our 9/11 workers.

Secretary Clinton has been a clarion call to so many, like me, who now hope to make a difference in the lives of others. Now all America looks to her as our secretary of State and to our new President Obama to rebuild America's greatness around the world and restore the beacon of light and hope that defines our nation.

I also owe particular gratitude to my colleagues in the House and to our New York congressional delegation, many of whom are here with me today. And I'm so grateful for you to come.

Senator Schumer has been an inspiration to me in his ability to advocate for the many needs of our state and provide incredible leadership in the Senate on behalf of all of us. I look forward to serving with you, Senator, and I hope to mirror your vigor and commitment to each and every New Yorker.

In the House, I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi, because she provided me with so many opportunities for leadership very early in my career. She allowed me to be a leader in the legislation to implement the 9/11 commission recommendations. She asked me to serve on her Steering and Policy Committee as a freshman. And she recently asked me to serve in her leadership for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

I want to recognize the esteemed dean of our delegation, Chairman Charlie Rangel, who's obviously provided unwavering support for working families across our great state to ensure that every child can reach his or her God-given potential.

And I know I owe enormous gratitude to each and every member of our delegation for their support, friendship, advice and counsel. And I look forward to working with each and every one of you on the issues that are most important to your districts.

I want to say a special thanks to Congressman Mike McNulty. And the congressman's obviously just retired, but he was such a mentor and a friend to me these past two years. I relied on him in so many instances to talk through difficult pieces of legislation, to talk about the House, his many years of service. And I could not have asked for a better friend to serve with. And Mike, we will all miss you. But thank you for all that you did for me. (Applause.)

I also want to recognize my colleagues who were part of this process. We were sitting on the House floor yesterday, and I was sitting with Congressman Israel and Congressman Higgins and Congresswoman Maloney. And, you know, we were laughing to ourselves, and we all congratulated each other and wished each other well and said good luck. And we all said to each other, "It doesn't matter who it is, because all of us will be able to provide great leadership for this state." And I just want to thank them personally for being so kind and such generous colleagues during the process. So thank you to my colleagues. (Applause.)

Now, I know this will get me in trouble with all the men colleagues here, but I do -- who I do love and admire -- I do -- but I really want to just spend a moment on the women members of the House, because they took special care to guide me and work with me over these years.

I want to start with Congresswoman Nita Lowey. Nita took me under her wing -- (applause) -- Nita took me under her wing, and she always offered the best advice. She would cut straight to the chase, tell me exactly how it was, and I couldn't be more grateful for her honesty and her compassion and her constant effort to guide me along. She's been a great friend. And I really look forward to working with her in the Senate, because Congresswoman Lowey is in charge of Foreign Operations.

She's in charge of all the federal spending for what we do abroad. And she's going to get to travel the world with Secretary Clinton, which I think is going to be fantastic.

And so I've asked to continue to serve on the Armed Services Committee, so I can work on terrorism issues. And those are areas where I will be looking to Nita as my appropriator to work on issues.

So Nita, I really look forward to that.

I also want to recognize Louise Slaughter, for her extraordinary leadership as the powerful chairman of the Rules Committee.

I want to recognize Congresswoman McCarthy, who's provided outstanding leadership in fighting against gun violence and keeping our children safe. And I pledge to work with her on her signature bill for updating background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Congresswoman Velazquez is a champion for fighting for our small businesses, which are the heart and soul of America's economy and our future.

And Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, my colleague and my peer -- she's already made great strides in having an impact in keeping New York safe on her actions in the Homeland Security Committee.

And I want to look to our extraordinary state leaders, who I intend to partner in all things. Speaker Silver has been an incredible friend, and has offered his wise counsel often.

Senate Majority Leader Smith has been an extraordinary adviser. And I'm very grateful to you.

Minority Leader Skelos, Assembly Minority Leader Tedisco, and Comptroller DiNapoli, we are going to continue to partner on all of our key issues.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has been a personal mentor and friend to me since I started my public service when I worked for him at HUD as his special counsel. I have special gratitude for Andrew because he's worked with me over these past few years on many issues that are vital to my district, and I'm just very grateful for that continued friendship.

And last but not least, I want to thank the constituents of the 20th Congressional District. Many of you are here. (Applause.)

I see our country chairs in the audience. I see our leaders in the audience. I see our community leaders in the audience. You've partnered with me over these last two years to make me a better congresswoman, and I just want to thank you for believing in me and supporting me and voting for me -- in overwhelming numbers. (Laughter.) It really was an extraordinary honor, and I just want to thank all of you. (Applause.)

For me, the opportunity to serve our state is a realization of not only my dreams, but the hopes and dreams of those who came before me. I want to recognize Judith Hope, who is here, who I so admired when she was our first woman to be our leader in the state as the Democratic Party chair. She's been such a good friend to me, and a counselor and adviser.

And Judith, I just want to salute you for really being a groundbreaking leader in our state. Thank you. (Applause.)

And if June is here, I know you have very big shoes to fill, coming after Judith. Thank you for continuing to carry the torch. I'm very grateful to you. (Applause.)

As many of you know, I grew up here right in Albany. And the person who was --

JACK MCINERNEY (?): (Off mike.) (Laughter.)

REP. GILLIBRAND: Thank you, Jack. Jack McInerney is my adopted political dad. I love Jack. Thank you, Jack.

I grew up right here in Albany, and my role model in politics was my grandmother. And I don't know how many of you knew Polly Noonan, but -- (applause) -- she was a woman who never went to college and she was a secretary back at a time when very few women worked. She was a secretary in our state legislature. And as a 20-year-old, somehow she just got this passion for politics, and it grew during her whole lifetime. And the way she decided to implement that passion was she organized. She organized all the women in the legislature. Then she organized all the women of the capital district. And over a 50-year period, she became such a powerful force in Democratic politics and government here.

And what I admired so much about her was her passion. She loved it more than anything. It was politics and charity work and her grandkids. And she had such a love for being involved and helping people, that it inspired me at a very young age. And so when I was literally a 10-year-old girl sitting in campaign headquarters stuffing envelopes with all her lady friends, I thought someday I may serve, someday I may be part of this. And I always knew that public service was something we should aspire to; that it takes great courage, that it takes great commitment. But it matters because it affects everything in our lives -- everything we do for our children, everything we do for our parents. And that's what my grandmother taught me. (Applause.)

So I look now to my own family sitting here in front of me, and I look at them with great gratitude and love. And I see my 5-year-old son Theodore here, who welcomes me every evening with a kiss and a hug and keeps me centered in all that I do. Just behind him is my little infant son, Henry, who is only 8 months old, who has proven to be the sweetest baby you could imagine, a good eater and a good sleeper, which all moms want. (Laughter.)

And my wonderful husband, Jonathan. (Applause.) Jonathan has supported me in everything I have wanted to do since we first met. And he is someone who I trust, who I listen to, who I look to when I'm most troubled and concerned. He always has the right thing to say.

He always gives me the best advice. And he always greets me with a loving heart. And there is nothing a woman could ask for more than that. (Applause.)

My mom is here. My dad is here. My dad's wife, Gwen, is here. My aunts and uncles are here. My cousins are here. My nieces and nephews are here. We have a lot of family in Albany. (Laughter.) My brother Doug is here. My sister, unfortunately, is home with her kids in Baltimore. My sister-in-law is here.

My family has been my rock and my guiding light. They have supported me. They have encouraged me. They give me advice on many, many issues. And I love them for it. So thank you to all of you, particularly my mom and dad and my brother and sister-in-law and Gwen. I really appreciate it. (Applause.)

Okay, so I spent on thank-yous. I'll get to the policy. Here we go. (Laughter.)

We are all painfully aware that New York has been hit very hard by this economic recession. In upstate New York, years of manufacturing decline have made the new downturn even harder to bear for our families. Downstate, the sudden collapse of the financial industry last fall has echoed throughout our state's economy. Wall Street makes up more than 20 percent of our state's revenues, and the effects on our state budget has been devastating.

Governor Paterson recognized this budget crisis very early. And what I admire so much about him is he began to solve the problem immediately. He came to Washington. He met with our senators. He met with our Congress members. He offered transparent, pragmatic, straightforward thoughts about what the crisis was and how best to handle it.

He offered his ideas. He offered his priorities. And that's exactly what the relationship between state government and federal government should be. We should be working hand-in-glove and to make sure we can serve the families of our districts and the families of our state. And I just want to commend Governor Paterson for his leadership so early on in this process. (Applause.)

Maintaining and preserving jobs, re-establishing manufacturing, investing in agribusiness and small farms, cultivating high-tech and biotech, and a concerted focus on new energy technologies and innovations will be my focus as senator.

We will pass a wide-ranging stimulus package, which will create jobs in New York and help revitalize our economy by increasing the share of Medicaid dollars the federal government pays back to New York; by making new investments in infrastructure, in mass transit, high-speed rail throughout western and upstate New York -- (applause) -- (inaudible) -- my western colleagues -- which Congresswoman Slaughter has taken a leading initiative on. She formed the Upstate Caucus so that we can meet with the Department of Transportation to specifically create the plans today to how we create high- speed rail from New York to Albany to western New York, so we have a triangle corridor that can actually increase our economic growth in this state.

It is the best investment we can make in the next decade, by putting in that kind of transportation network. It's good for our businesses, it's good for our economy, it's good for our state, and it's good for our environment.

So that's the kind of work that I think we can do and begin to do in this new fiscal stimulus package. Those infrastructure investments can make a difference.

Also, we want to invest in health care. Health care IT is something that will lower costs for everyone across this state, and that's something that will be in our fiscal stimulus package.

We also must realize that small businesses will be at the center of this economic revival in New York. As much as 80 percent of the new jobs come from small businesses, and New York's entrepreneurial spirit is the key to this growth. By combining the energy of our small businesses with the power of our research centers and universities, we can rekindle the spirit of innovation that has made this state great.

I think our state is poised to take advantage of the energy revolution. The greatest market opportunity of our generation is in the alternative energy markets and conservation technologies. And it's not just about how to perfect wind and solar and biofuels, and cellulosic ethanol, and hydropower, and fuel cell and geothermal.

It's been about taking those innovations to market, and creating products that use those new energy technologies. That kind of innovation does many things. Number one, it addresses our national security priority of becoming energy independent in 10 years, which our President Obama has made a cornerstone of his administration.

Second, it allows us to create jobs in a new sector, where America and our state can be a world leader.

And third, it's the one thing that combats global warming, so that we can leave our world better for our children and our grandchildren. (Applause.)

We also need targeted middle-class tax cuts. We need tax cuts so families can afford to take care of their children. The kind of tax cuts we should look for are education tax credits, tax credits for early childhood education.

I have a 5-year-old son. It is very expensive for pre-K and early childhood education. The best time to teach our children is when they are young, when they are Theo's age, because their minds expand so rapidly. And having those early education opportunities is essential, so that they can reach their God-given potential. So funding early childhood education will make a difference in our nation's future.

Funding college education will make a difference. If you are college educated, you have the capacity to earn tens of thousands of dollars more than if you have a high-school education. Our economy grows, our state prospers, if more of our students have the opportunity have a college education. We will fund that in the stimulus package, with Senator Schumer's leadership and with the leadership of the House and the Senate. (Applause.)

We also have to address the burden of property taxes. As Tom Suozzi demonstrated in his outstanding report and analysis of the issue, property taxes are one of the greatest burdens we have throughout our state, because they continue to go up at such a high rate.

So we need solutions there, and the governor is working on those solutions. And we will find a solution. We will find a solution that can lower property taxes but make sure that we fully fund our schools. And that's the kind of leadership that Governor Paterson will provide. (Applause.)

I will also strive for economic and social justice. I will advocate for marriage equality, women's rights -- (applause) -- women's rights, preserving Social Security and the retirement that our seniors seem to be losing, every day, and call for significant investments in education and affordable health care for New York families.

Our troops who are serving, in Iraq and Afghanistan, overseas and throughout this country, our veterans and our farmers all need their voices heard in Washington. So I've asked our leader if I can serve on the committees I've served on in the House. I'd like to continue to serve on Armed Services and Agriculture. (Applause.)

(Cross talk.)

Should I finish? (Laughter.)

I'm going to finish.

I will look for ways to find common ground between upstate and downstate. There are so many issues where we can come together, whether you're talking about making sure we preserve our watershed and our clean water but also preserve our opportunities for economic development, where we can reduce gun violence and protect our children and keep guns out of the hands of criminals but also protect our hunters' rights. This is the kind of work I pledge to do, to bring upstate and downstate together, to work on behalf of all New Yorkers. (Applause.)

During the last two years, what I've learned most about my service is that it's all about the people you serve. One thing I did is, I did Congress on Your Corners. I did them all across my district. I'm going to do them all across the state.

They're the best thing I ever did. Nita Lowey does them. A lot of members do them. She does them. And, but what it is, is I can look someone in the eye and hear their concern and hear their priority and then do something about it. And this has happened over and over again over these last few years. And I can't tell you how meaningful it is, as a representative, to serve in that capacity.

I had one veteran who was having so much trouble with the VA.

He was a Vietnam veteran, and had lost a leg in his service. They were evicting him from his apartment. They were turning off his electricity. And he called my office and said, "Kirsten, I need help."

So, literally, three calls later, we got this gentleman the back pay he deserved and was owed. It was $60,000. It changed his life immediately. And what he said to me on that day, he said, "Kirsten, every morning I wake up, I strap on my leg, and I strap on my patriotism. I cannot thank you enough."

And when you hear that from someone and know that the power of the offices where we serve -- all of us in state, local and federal government. That is what government's about. It's about making the difference for people that we serve. (Applause.)

It will be my honor and most humble duty to serve each and every one of you as your senator.

God bless New York. (Applause.)

GOV. PATERSON: President Obama is trying to reach our senator- in- waiting and --


GOV. PATERSON: That was what I was -- I hope someone else talked to him in the interim. (Laughter.)

They said he's going to call back. (Laughter.)

Please call back. (Laughter.)

Before we give the -- the media and the rest of the press an opportunity to speak with Congresswoman Gillibrand, who as of Sunday will become the senator, the secretary of state, Lorraine Cortes- Vazquez, and me both have signed the documents that will go to Washington. As soon as they reach Washington, she becomes a senator. And once she is sworn in, she can vote on legislation and serve New York.

Now -- (Applause.) Has he called back yet? (Laughter.)

Now, two of the congresswoman's colleagues I have selected -- because so many of her colleagues and friends have come so far to wish her well today, and we've selected two of them. It will be her new partner, and the partner that she's leaving.

In the Senate over the last couple of months, with the senator going through confirmation hearings, Senator Chuck Schumer has been steadfast and disciplined and dedicated as ever, and has been an unquenching help to me in this -- in this process.

He is a wonderful friend, a great adviser, and really has evolved into that same role not only with his friends, but with all of his colleagues in the United States Senate.

So here to welcome to -- the congresswoman -- United States Senate is our senior senator from New York, Chuck Schumer. (Applause.)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Thank you. Thank you, Governor Paterson. And first and foremost, I want to congratulate you, Governor Paterson, on the outstanding choice of Representative Kirsten Gillibrand to be the next senator from the great state of New York. (Applause.)

MS. GILLIBRAND: Thank you, Senator, very much.

SEN. SCHUMER: She will be, I know, a great partner, a great colleague, a great senator. Kirsten Gillibrand is a talented legislator, a dedicated public servant. She is one of the most aggressive and effective younger members of the House.

And I have seen it first-hand. She and I have worked closely to fight for upstate dairy farmers burdened by soaring costs and declining prices. And we have fought hard side by side to bring high- tech jobs to Saratoga County. Together, we've also championed the cause of volunteer firefighters in the tax code.

She has a reputation as a go-to person. If you want to get something done legislatively or in her district, go to Kirsten Gillibrand and she will get it done. (Applause.)

She's also highly skilled in the electoral area. To win twice in the most Republican district in the state, winning 62 percent against a well-funded challenger in her last election, is no small accomplishment. (Applause.) There's her district. All right, 20th! As head of the DSCC for four years where senators had to run in heavily Republican areas, I know how hard this is, I know how valuable this is, in terms of winning elections.

And, most importantly, as you've seen, she's a great mom. She knows what families go through to raise kids, have a career and bring home the paycheck.

So, Governor, the bottom line is this: With this choice, you hit the nail on the head. Congratulations. (Applause.)

Furthermore, it's very important to have someone from upstate. (Applause.) Upstate New York has had no representation -- upstate New York, until now, has had no representation statewide, and it's had no representation in the Senate since 1970.

This morning, I spoke to a New York City journalist who said, "Why do we need someone from upstate?" (Laughter.) That got me angry. Upstate New York has 7 million people. It would be one of the 10 largest states without New York City and its surrounding suburbs. And the problems of upstate are critical to our whole state. Our manufacturing sector is in steep decline. We're losing good-paying jobs. Our homeowners face a huge property-tax burden while still trying to defend the quality of our schools. And our farmers face rising costs.

Now, many of us work hard for upstate. Senator Clinton did; I do. But having someone who's actually from upstate is a real plus. And I commend the governor for having the courage to make this impressive choice. (Applause.)

There's a current analogy in Washington right now. While there have been past presidents who deeply cared about civil rights and done great things for African-Americans, it's clear that having an African- American as president is a whole lot different. It's the same for upstate: Many of us fight for upstate, but having someone from upstate is a whole lot different. (Applause.) I say that as a kid from Brooklyn. (Laughter.)

I'm also proud that the governor chose a woman. We -- (cheers, applause) -- we still have only 16 women in the Senate. And with the loss of Hillary Clinton and no women in statewide office, Governor Paterson has said he preferred to choose a woman and -- couldn't agree more with that sentiment, right, Theodore (sp)? (Laughter.)

MR. : Yes. (Laughter, applause.)

SEN. SCHUMER: And, by the way, as chairman of the DSCC, I've found that women candidates run better and win more easily. (Cheers, applause.) But above all, talent, ability, work ethic are the most important virtues for a senator, and Representative Gillibrand fits that bill. (Applause.)

And Kirsten talked fondly of Hillary, who I will dearly miss as a partner. And Hillary -- I spoke to Hillary an hour ago, who was effusive about Kirsten Gillibrand and told me to tell you she fully supports her as senator from the great state of New York. (Applause.)

Hillary knows that Kirsten will follow in the great tradition of senators who have held that seat. And let's think back. Nine years ago, Hillary Clinton decided to run for the U.S. Senate. While she was not well known, she was not known in the New York State context.

But the voters got to know her and saw her intelligence, her ability to listen and solve problems, her grit, her determination and her energy. And she won them over. I am confident that the same will happen to Kirsten.

(Cross talk.)

The president.

(Laughter, applause, cross talk.)

I'm going to keep reading. (Laughter, cross talk.)

Barack, forgive me.

Okay, but I've spoken to Hillary, as I said, and she's fully supportive.

Now, when Hillary first ran for office, she embarked on a listening tour of upstate. I --

(Cross talk.)

I say to Kirsten, while she's talking to the president -- (laughter) -- let's do our own listening tour. Let's go to Bayside and Bed-Stuy, to Tottenville and Eastchester, to Hicksville and Huntington, to Williamsburg, Williamsbridge and Washington Heights. And I'm confident that just as when upstate got to know Hillary, they came to respect and love her, downstate will feel the same for you. (Applause.)

Welcome back. No problem. First things first.

Did you ask him about more money for water and sewer?


SEN. SCHUMER: Good. (Laughter.)

We're trying to get more money for water and sewer in the stimulus. Now I have a partner to help.

Now, I know that there are certain issues where Kirsten and I are going to disagree. Perhaps the starkest contrast is on guns. As author of the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Ban, I care passionately about this issue.

I come from Brooklyn. Kirsten represents a very rural district upstate, with no large cities. And I'm confident that as Kirsten comes to see the cities of the state and sees the problem of gun violence there, her views will evolve to reflect the whole state.

And this is naturally part of the process. (Laughter.)

When I was congressman from Brooklyn, I opposed all agriculture subsidies. As senator, I came to know and sympathize with the struggles of upstate New York farmers, and have become a strong advocate for them. They call me the Brooklyn farmer. Now, I know the same kind of thing will happen with Kirsten.

So, in conclusion, my fellow New Yorkers, my fellow Americans, this is a crucial time for our state and for our nation. There are massive challenges and tough times ahead. Nationally and in our state, thousands of jobs are lost every day. Middle-class incomes are declining. Things like health care costs, tuition and energy prices are too high. Overseas, we face a changing and even more dangerous world.

In Washington, it is a particularly crucial time for this state, as billions of dollars are being disbursed. And we must make sure that New York gets its fair share. (Applause.)

So, in every way, it is no time for rancor, no time for division amongst our party or between the parties. It's not a time for fighting. I ask my colleagues in government, and all my fellow New Yorkers -- Democrats of all stripes, Independents, Republicans -- to get behind our new senator, seize the opportunity, face the challenges at home and abroad and bring real change together to our great state and beloved country. (Applause.)

Thank you, Governor.

GOV. PATERSON: Just a little historical reference. In late June of 1968, sadly, Governor Rockefeller had to fill a Senate vacancy -- it's the last time that it happened in New York -- when he replaced our fallen hero, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, with upstate Congressman Charles Goodell. This is the last time that an upstate citizen served in the United States Senate. The congressman from Jamestown served two-and-a-half years, and was promptly voted out of office in 1970 by the Conservative Party candidate, James Buckley. That will not happen this time. (Applause.)

MS. : Thank you, Governor!

MR. : Right you are!

GOV. PATERSON: But I just want to reaffirm that 42 percent of our population lives in the upstate region. And it is great to know that there is representation, and that the whole state supports that we have that type of representation.

And now, to come forward and to bid Congresswoman, soon-to-be Senator, Gillibrand farewell is her colleague in the House, the originator of the term Congress on Your Corner, the one who has fought not only just for the Westchester area in which she lives, but for New Yorkers all over this state and all around this country.

And we are so pleased that she could come here this morning and be with us. She is one of the most outstanding House members in this country, a great American, Congresswoman Nita Lowey. (Applause.)

REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY): Thank you, Governor. And how proud we are of our governor. And what an extraordinary job you are doing leading us in this very, very difficult time.

And for me -- (applause) -- and for me, Governor, on behalf of all my colleagues in the Congress, I just want to sincerely thank you. And I want you to know that we are with you. We will work with you. We will fight with you. We will come through this very, very painful time for so many of the people in this room, with your leadership and the leadership of our great senator, our new great senator, and all my colleagues.

And I won't take my few minutes to thank all my colleagues in government who are here today. In fact, I think I'm the -- what do they say -- the clean-up batter? (Laughter.)


REP. LOWEY: So I won't go into detail about all the great issues that my friend Kirsten and I have been working on.

But, first I want to say a few words about our senator. You know how modest our senator is. (Laughter.) And when he says he needs someone from upstate, we are thrilled to have Kirsten there, because she's from upstate but for a whole range of reasons, which I will present to you.

But you know that Chuck Schumer has been on every corner in New York state. (Laughter.) And I'm sure he's met with every person in this room. (Laughter.) And we thank you, Senator, for your great leadership. The senator has been extraordinary not just in New York, but representing us in the Congress as a real leader. In fact, if you happen to watch C-SPAN, no matter what committee is having a hearing, there's Chuck Schumer. (Laughter, applause.)

REP. GILLIBRAND (?): That is not true.

REP. LOWEY: So we thank you, Chuck Schumer. And Chuck Schumer makes us so proud because he gets it. He understands the issue, and he represents us not only with eloquence, but force.

I want to also say a word about my dear friend -- and my constituent, in case you didn't know. We're hearing a lot about shoes to be filled, but Senator Clinton's shoes are left by her bed in the 18th Congressional District when she comes home most weekends. As you know, that's my district.

And I'm very proud of Hillary Clinton, not just because she's a warm, talented, brilliant leader, but she is a fighter, for New York and for the country.

And as Kirsten mentioned before, I am thrilled. Now Hillary Clinton will be the secretary of State, but I, as chair of the committee that funds the Department of State and all foreign aid, controls the budget. So we're going to have a great relationship, and I really look forward to it. But we're all proud and grateful for the great work that Hillary Clinton has done as a senator.

And, Kirsten, you have to promise me one thing. I don't know how many of you know about iced wine or about the great -- June O'Neill is shaking her head -- about all the wonderful cheeses from upstate New York.

Hillary has established a wonderful Farmers' Day in Washington. And I don't know how many farmers we have here, but as Chuck's just said, we go there to salute the farmers. We know it's important for economic development. But it's also delicious. (Laughter.) And it's the best-attended event in Washington.


SEN. SCHUMER: Wait: second. (Laughter.)

REP. LOWEY: We need --

SEN. SCHUMER: His fundraiser's first. (Laughter.)

REP. LOWEY: Oh, excuse -- (laughs) -- Gary Ackerman (sp) has a deli -- from my former district. So if you like corned beef pastrami -- well, they're tied.

MR. : It doesn't go with the cheese. (Laughter.)

REP. LOWEY: I don't know -- I don't know how the cheddar cheese, Gary, and the iced wine goes with the pastrami and corned beef, but we could talk about that.

So I just want to make a few points about my friend Kirsten. You heard about her service on the Armed Services Committee. And with our new president and Secretary Gates and General Jones and Admiral McMullen -- Admiral Mullen talking about the importance of soft power, this is going to be a major challenge in this next few years.

And Kirsten, with her expertise on armed services, has worked with me to really try and sort out the interaction between armed services and between our foreign aid, HIV/AIDS and water. It's all part of our national security agenda, and Kirsten will be critical to that -- so working on agriculture, working on armed services, and all the other issues that everyone discussed today.

For me, as a member of Congress for 20 years and a mother of three -- Theo, Henry -- and a grandmother of eight, you heard a lot about Congress on the Corner.

Many of us started this -- I started it about 20 years ago. And for me, that is absolutely critical. Yes, Kirsten will pass great legislation in Washington that will impact all of us. But never forgetting who you are and why you're there and who sent you there, and listening to people, whether it's a veteran or whether it's someone who lost a Social Security check, or someone who is facing foreclosure, Kirsten knows how to listen.

And that is what is so important. She has the heart, she has the passion, she has the concern, she has the intelligence, she has the thoughtfulness to listen and bring back your messages to Washington, because everything we do in Washington is rooted in local concerns.

And I have a great deal of confidence that Kirsten has those skills. By the way, she was a constituent of mine for about four years. You didn't know that. She was from Larchmont before you claimed her. And so I do feel that having Kirsten as a senator follows in the footsteps of my current constituent.

So I just want to join my colleagues and so many friends and neighbors in giving her her love -- our love, our confidence, knowing that she will represent us with great distinction.

Thank you. And thank you to the governor. (Applause.)

GOV. PATERSON: What we would like to do at this point is to give the members of the media an opportunity to visit with the new senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. And then, if there are any questions for the rest of us, we'll take them afterward.

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