There are 17 women in the US Senate. Our highest total yet! Now that's what we call women's voices for change! Today, we'll be covering:
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Amy Klobuchar (48, DFL-MN)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO) Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
When Hillary Clinton left the U.S. Senate to become Secretary of State on the 21st, the Senate was briefly one woman short. However, with this weekend's appointment of Albany-area Representative Kirsten Gillibrand to replace her, there is once again a female Senator from New York, restoring us to a total of 17 women in the current Senate - the highest total yet.
Let's meet the women of the upper chamber in the 111th Congress.
Kirsten Gillibrand (42, D-NY) will be sworn in Tuesday to become the 99th Senator of the 2009-2010 term. (The lawsuits to determine whether incumbent Norm Coleman (R) or challenger Al Franken (D) mean Minnesota's second Senate seat will remain upu in the air until at least mid-February.) She is the only woman among the four Senators appointed as replacements for members of President Obama's administration.
Gillibrand, first elected to the House in 2006, whomped her 2008 reelection opponent, former NY Secretary of State Alexander "Sandy" Treadwell, by a vote of 62-38%. She raised over 4.6 million dollars in the race, tithing nearly $200,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That tagged her in Washington as a serious power player, according to Politico, which made her an exemplar of the "7 habits of highly effective freshmen."
She has already taken some heat from her new constituents in the New York City region because of her 100% voting record with the National Rifle Association and membership in the conservative Blue Dog Coalition of House Dems. (She's one of six women in the group, which includes Loretta Sanchez and Jane Harman.) However, she also has a 90% rating from the ACLU, and appeared beside Al Sharpton at an event in Harlem on Saturday, pledging to square the needs of the hunters in her old district along the Vermont and Massachusetts borders with those of residents in dense cities who worry about handgun violence.
One of those constituents, House Representative Carolyn McCarthy, has already announced her intention to run against Gillibrand in a Democratic primary for the 2010 special election which will decide whether Gillibrand serves through the full Senate term. (Newsday reports that Caroline Kennedy and her family are also interested in backing a 2010 challenge.) Rep. McCarthy, whose husband was killed in a gun massacre on the Long Island Rail Road, refused to go to Gillibrand's appointment ceremony in Albany, expressing her dismay to senior Senator Charles Schumer. "He said, 'Why don't you give her a chance?'" McCarthy said. "I said, 'I've talked to her on the floor, I'm sorry, I can't.'"
Expect plenty of drama from the Empire State.
Kay Hagan (55, D-NC) defeated Elizabeth Dole (R) in the 2008 election, making North Carolina the first state to have elected women of both major parties to the Senate. She served as state senator, co-chairing the appropriations committee, for five terms before challenging Dole. In the U.S. Senate, she has been appointed to the Armed Services and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions ("HELP") committees.
Hagan began her political career working for her uncle, former Florida governor and Senator Lawton Chiles. She campaigned against Dole as a fighter for the middle class, emphasizing health care, pay equity, and the creation of green-energy jobs.
Her first speech on the Senate floor was for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which the Senate approved Thursday night.