Kirsten Gillibrand biography
Born on December 9, 1966, in Albany, New York, Kirsten Gillibrand grew up in a political family, influenced by the independent spirit of her mother and grandmother. In 2006, Gillibrand won a House of Representatives seat as a Democrat in a traditionally Republican region. She was appointed to the Senate in 2009 after Hillary Clinton resigned. Gillibrand won the seat in 2010 and a 2012 re-election.
Early Family Life and Schooling
Kirsten Gillibrand was born Kirsten Elizabeth Rutnik on December 9, 1966, in Albany, New York, and grew up in a political household with women who were independent and free thinkers. Her maternal grandmother, Dorothea "Polly" Noonan had, a major influence on Albany politics, advising Mayor Erastus Corning II and organizing state legislature secretaries to political action. Kirsten's mother, Polly Noonan Rutnik, pursued a career in law and would also become a black belt in karate. Her father, Douglas Rutnik, worked as a lawyer and lobbyist.
Gillibrand, who grew up using the nickname "Tina," attended the all-girl prep school Emma Willard before going to Dartmouth University, where she faced a still sexist atmosphere a decade after the ivy-league institution had gone coed. She majored in Asian studies and went abroad to China, where she interviewed the Dalai Lama. Gillibrand graduated magna cum laude and went on to earn a degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. She worked for a legal firm before entering the world of politics, inspired by the words of Hillary Clinton. During her time as a corporate attorney, she also served as special counsel to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Kirsten Rutnik took on the surname Gillibrand after marrying British venture capitalist Jonathan Gillibrand in 2001. They have two children.
The House, then Senate
In 2006, Gillibrand campaigned for a seat on the House of Representatives, running on a Democratic ticket against Republican incumbent John E. Sweeney for an area of upstate New York that tended to vote Republican. She won the election and cemented her standing with community-based campaigningm, which resulted in a 2008 re-election landslide.
Gillibrand would resign from her House seat in January 2009. She was appointed by then New York Governor David Peterson to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Clinton, who accepted the position of secretary of state as part of President Barack Obama’s newly formed cabinet. Gillibrand won re-election in a special 2010 election, becoming the youngest elected member of the Senate at age 43.
Progressive and Conservative Politics
Gillibrand's record has caused her to be described as both progressive and centrist in her political leanings. She has been a major supporter of gay rights, advocating same-sex marriage and the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, thereby allowing gay citizens to serve openly in the military. She has also worked for women's rights and improved healthcare benefits for 9/11 workers and served on the Senate Agricultural Committee, where she’s fought against food stamp reductions.
On the conservative end, during her time in the House, Gillibrand opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants and received major endorsements from the National Rifle Association. As a senator, she later softened her stance on immigration and started to favor gun control. Gillibrand is also known to favor transparency; in her "Sunlight Report," she openly publishes whom she meets with politically—a decision that has not always been welcomed by colleagues.
Up for re-election in 2012, Gillibrand faced off against Republican Wendy Long, who had also attended Dartmouth University. Gillibrand won the race, hence retaining her senate seat.