Senator Kirsten Gillibrand used an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to announce she was formally entering the race to become president in 2020 – the latest high profile Democrat to enter what will become a crowded field.
“I’m going to run for president of the United States, because as a young mom I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own,” she said, when asked if she had any news to share with the audience. “I’m filing an exploratory committee for president of the United States tonight.”
The formation of the exploratory committee will allow her to legally begin fundraising and organising her campaign, as she seeks to carve out a distinct presence in a field of candidates that could reach two dozen.
Texas Democrat Julian Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and top official in Barack Obama’s administration formally launched his White House bid on Saturday. Former congressman John Delaney has been running for more than a year, while senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts formed an exploratory committee last month. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii said last Friday that she too, will run for president.
It is generally reckoned that candidates such as Ms Gillibrand, a senator for New York, who is well known but not among the top-rated potential candidates, benefit from declaring earlier in the cycle. This gives them more time to raise the vast sums required for a run, and to build awareness nationwide.
People such as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, should they decide run, already possess extensive networks that would allow them to raise money quickly. They also have greater national recognition. Figures such as congressman Beto O’Rourke, who narrowly failed to defeat Ted Cruz last year for a senate seat, have displayed they have the power to generate excitement among grassroots supporters that would also allow them to raise money quickly.
In her appearance broadcast on Tuesday evening, Ms Gillibrand, who was previously moderate but has shifted to the left on issues over the past decade, pitched herself as someone who would push for universal health care, public school and job training programmes, and seeking to tackle climate change.
“You are never going to accomplish any of these things if you don’t take on the systems of power which make all of that impossible,” said Ms Gillibrand, who took the senate seat previously occupied by Hillary Clinton.
“Which means taking on institutional racism, it’s taking on the corruption and greed in Washington, and taking on the special interests that write legislation in the dead of night, and I know that I have the compassion, courage, and fearless determination to get that done.”
Reuters said that as senator, Ms Gillibrand has been outspoken about rape in the military and campus sexual assault several years before the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault gathered pace in 2017.
In late 2017, as she pushed for a bill changing how Congress processes and settles sexual harassment allegations made by employees some prominent party leaders criticised her for being the first Democratic senator to urge the resignation of senator Al Franken, who was accused of groping and kissing women without their consent.
During the same period, Ms Gillibrand said Ms Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, should have resigned from the White House after his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives.
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