On road to 2020, New York's Gillibrand
touts liberal cred in Iowa
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[January 21, 2019]
By Ginger Gibson
BOONE, Iowa (Reuters) - U.S. Senator
Kirsten Gillibrand made her maiden voyage to the critical primary state
of Iowa over the weekend, laying out her case that she is the best
Democrat to challenge President Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential
election in 2020.
In a series of intimate meetings, Gillibrand focused her message on
economic issues, while also delivering a fiery denunciation of Trump as
a racist and a liar who is "ripping the fabric of America."
Gillibrand, from New York, joins a small field of Democratic contenders
that is expected to expand by over a dozen more, all vying for the
party's nomination and the right to challenge Trump, if he is the
Republican's 2020 nominee.
Criticized in the past by party left-wingers as too moderate, Gillibrand
repeatedly emphasized her support for a "Medicare for all" proposal to
create a national health care system.
"When I said we need to dismantle ICE and rebuild them, I'm very
serious," she said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement. Gillibrand has joined liberals in calling for a revamping
of the immigration enforcement agency.
A parade of candidates is already crossing Iowa that will hold the first
primary contest in early 2020. Senator Elizabeth Warren from
Massachusetts traversed Iowa in early January, followed by Julian
Castro, a former U.S. housing chief under former President Barack Obama.
Iowa voters, predominantly white and divided between rural and urban
areas, have historically kicked off a months-long series of
state-by-state contests to pick a nominee for president.
Gillibrand, who had never previously visited the state of Iowa, drew
crowds in rural and urban areas. Some locals attributed the turnout to
pent-up frustration among Democrats eager to begin the process of trying
to replace Trump. Few vowed support for Gillibrand at this early stage.
In the small town of Boone, she held a meeting on Saturday that drew
about 25 locals who braved the snow. Penny Vossler, 62, of Boone, hasn't
decided who she will support but attended to hear what Gillibrand said
about issues like health care.
"I'm going to give them all a shot," Vossler said.
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U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) talks to customers at the
Pierce Street Coffee Works while on a walking tour after announcing
that she is forming an exploratory committee to enter the 2020
presidential race, in Sioux City, Iowa, U.S., January 18, 2019.
Gillibrand acknowledged she enters the race as a virtual unknown in
Iowa. She barely registered in a December Des Moines Register/CNN
poll of likely 2020 Iowa Democratic caucus-goers, which put
well-known potential candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden
and Senator Bernie Sanders at the top.
At a "house party" in Sioux City, one voter asked her to explain her
role in helping oust former Senator Al Franken from the Senate.
Franken resigned from the Senate in 2017 in the wake of the #MeToo
movement after being accused of harassing women.
Gillibrand was the most vocal of his colleagues to criticize him,
which prompted blowback from other liberals who felt she had rushed
"It wasn't possible for me to remain silent, because what my silence
meant was defending him, carrying his water, which I was unwilling
to do," Gillibrand said.
At the same event, another voter asked her to explain why early in
her political career she had received an "A" rating from the
gun-rights group the National Rifle Association (NRA), a score
reflecting its approval of her votes on gun laws.
Gillibrand explained that growing up in rural New York state, she
had never thought about gun control.
"I really only thought of guns through the lens of hunting. My
mother still shoots the Thanksgiving turkey," she said, drawing
But then she appeared to choke back tears as she discussed meeting
the family of a young woman who was a bystander when she was killed
with a gun. As a result, she sponsored legislation to reduce gun
"I'm proud to have an F from the NRA," she said.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and
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