Sometimes Republicans Can Work With a New York Democrat
Kiristen Gillibrand. Raise Your Voice, Change the World. New York: Ballantine Books, 2014.
The author hopes this book will inspire readers into “action” for better public policies. She shares her experiences and provides lessons she has learning in attempting to “create the counts we want and deserve.”
Gillibrand was inspired by her mother, Polly, a politically active woman. Both derives inspiration from her grandmother, also named Polly, who worked as a secretary for the New York state legislature. Her grandmother helped recruit secretaries and place then with legislators. Her grandmother wore roller skates to get around the Capitol. The grandmother was active with the Albany County Democratic Women’s Club and led a group who called themselves “Polly’s Girls”, who circulated petitions, organized rallies, campaigned, and fund raised. Polly was close to Albany’s Mayor Erastus Corning. Polly defended the local political organization, claiming it was not a political machine, remarking “It’s not a machine! It’s a well-oiled organization. A machine has no heart.”
GIllibrand went to Yale and then UCLA Law School. She found herself inspired hearing Hillary Clinton, which motivated her to go into politics. She held a fund raiser for Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign She then was hired to work for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department.
Gillibrand decided to run for Congress. Political experts told her a Democrat couldn’t win in her district. She went to three campaign training schools. She took a poll that showed that while the Republican ncumbent John Sweeney led her by 57% to 19% that half the Republicans were undecided on the race. If she could do well with Democrats and pick up significant enough support among Independents and Republicans, she had a change even though the district was 2 to 1 Republican. She campaigned hard and won.
She supported Steny Hoyer over John Murtha for Majority Leader, much to the chagrin of Nancy Pelosi. She does not regret doing this.
In Congress, she fought to end the $25 bill for overhead charged for child support. She fought to ban unsafe drop side cribs. She fought for more care for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder. She fought for assistance for 9-11 first responders. She fought to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and allowing gays to serve in the military. She sought more actions to prevent sexual abuse in the military.
She brought her children to work and allowed staff to bring their children to work. When she went to the Senate, the Senate rules did not allow her to bring her children onto the Senate floor. She had to figure out where to leave her children while voting.
Although she had only been in Congress for two years, she asked Governor David Patterson to consider naming her to the Senate vacancy left when Hillary Clinton left the Senate to become Secretary of State. She advises that women to “use that feminine strength”. to “trust yourself”, and “draw your own map”. It is alright for a woman to be ambitious, even as most women shy away from appearing ambitious. She told Governor Patterson being from upstate New York and having lived a decade in New York City that she could represent the entire state. She heard many of the other people interviewed had criticized each other and her remarks to the Governor were “I’ve heard the nastiest things about you! And you have reflected none of that. It makes me like you even more.” His staff asked many later questions on where she stood on several issues. Governor Patterson picked her.
In Congress, she represented a rural area with many hunters and had an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. After becoming Senator, she met with people affected by gun violence and her opinions on guns evolved.
One of her earliest acts as Senator was to draft a bill to allow gays to serve in the military. The White House wanted someone with more seniority to sponsor the bill. She helped convince Senator Joe Lieberman to introduce the bill. He agreed and his support helped attract more support.
Many people who were first responders at the September 11 terrorist attack later developed illnesses, especially lung ailments. Gillibrand sought to provide them with medical benefits. This effort was successful.
Gillibrand fought for justice for those sexually abused by superiors while serving in the military. She was quickly joined by Senator Blumenthal, Boxer, Collins, and Mikulski. Senators Paul and Cruz also joined making the issue bipartisan. She continues with this fight.