RYE BROOK, N.Y. — A cheering, confident convention of New York Democrats chose Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday to run for their seats in November, setting them up to run in a general election in which both lead in polls and fundraising.
The moves at the state party's convention in Westchester County were hardly a surprise — Schumer is among the most popular politicians in New York and Gillibrand has worked hard to cement party support since she was picked last year to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was named U.S. secretary of state.
The designation is especially sweet for Gillibrand, who has spent much of the past year fending off a series of potential party challengers. She represented a largely rural upstate congressional district when Gov. David Paterson made her the surprise pick after Clinton's resignation. Many New York City Democrats thought she was too right-leaning and would make a poor urban champion.
Though Senate terms are six years, Gillibrand is running in a special election for a two-year term ending when Clinton's old term would have expired. [See who is giving money to Gillibrand's campaign.]
Gillibrand's aggressive work to bolster her support was apparent Wednesday as Democrats crowded around her at breakfast to shake her hand and get pictures taken with her. During her speech nominating Gillibrand, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she didn't know Gillibrand when she was appointed last year, but that she has since "become one of my greatest allies."
Gillibrand told delegates she would work as hard for them as she does for her family.
"I will pledge to fight every single day for the families of this state," Gillibrand said.
Schumer told the Democrats he is a New York City boy who came to love upstate dairy farms and high peaks as much as tall buildings and Coney Island.
"My friends, please know this: I will never, ever stop listening to you or working as hard as I can for you," Schumer said as he accepted the nomination. "... I will work as hard as I can with every bone in my body to earn your vote every single day, election year or not."
Schumer had a glidepath to the Democratic nomination and is a heavy favorite in the general election.
He has a reputation for being hyper-energetic, whether it's visiting each of New York's 62 counties every year, raising funds for Democrats or promoting his agenda. In his speech nominating Schumer, Assemblyman Keith Wright jokingly called him the "James Brown of government and politics."
Schumer has a hefty $21.8 million in his campaign account and no prominent Republicans among his potential general election challengers. Republicans have considered Gillibrand more vulnerable. But no prominent Republican is running against Gillibrand and polls show her leading potential challengers. [See which industries are donating to Schumer's campaign.]
Gillibrand reported a $6 million campaign balance last month, far more than her potential Republican challengers: Bruce Blakeman, Joe DioGuardi and David Malpass.
State Republicans hold their convention next week in New York City, though state Republican chairman Ed Cox stood outside the hotel where Democrats were meeting to decry a party he described as boss-driven. He said he liked his party's chances in a year Republicans are expected to make national gains.
"The people of New York state want fiscal conservatism," Cox said.