Upstate/Downstate Divide in Gillibrand Coverage

Upstate talks issues, downstate talks politics

Any native New Yorker can tell you that the Empire State really has two domains: upstate and downstate (or, if you’re a Gotham dweller, there’s “the city” and there’s “everywhere else”). Governor Paterson’s recent selection of Kirsten Gillibrand for the U.S. Senate has thrown this divide into stark relief. Gillibrand, who yesterday became the youngest member of the Senate at forty-two, is a Democrat who hails from upstate Greenport. Media outlets across the state have taken drastically different angles on the story: upstate papers are cheering the appointment of a native senator and focusing on Gillibrand’s stance on the issues, while downstate outlets are reporting the effects of her selection on the state’s overall political climate. Take a look:

Albany’s flagship paper, the Times Union, welcomes the senator while weighing claims that the pro-gun rights Gillibrand is “too conservative” for New York Democrats:

Gillibrand attempted to steer aside complaints from fellow Democrats who say she is too conservative. “I will represent the many diverse views and voices of New York state,” said Gillibrand, adding that she would work with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a Long Island Democrat who has criticized Gillibrand’s A rating from the National Rifle Association. “I will look for ways to find common ground between upstate and downstate.”

Gillibrand will be the first upstater to represent New York in the senate since Charles E. Goodell of Jamestown was appointed to the post after Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1968. Goodell held the seat for two years.

Fellow upstate news outlet The Buffalo News:

While Gillibrand has a reputation as a personable politician and an excellent fund-raiser, several downstate politicians could challenge her next year. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-Mineola, is already threatening to run in a primary against Gillibrand because of the new senator’s past opposition to gun control.

And Syracuse’s Post-Standard is eager to see how Gillibrand’s position on the issues will evolve:

Gillibrand, who hails from an influential political family, clearly knows politics. She was smart enough and adaptable enough to win twice in the state’s most heavily Republican congressional district. Her apparent willingness to “reposition” herself on some issues now that she represents the whole state is intriguing. Which views will she bend on to satisfy her new constituency, and which ones represent her core values?

Come on up to Central New York, senator. Let’s talk about it.

Meanwhile, downstate papers are focusing less on Gillibrand herself and more on how her selection affects the precarious process of New York state politics. John Riley of Long Island-based Newsday rather petulantly noted Gillibrand’s neglect of New York’s suburbs last week on her statewide listening tour:

Nothing yet has been announced for LI or Westchester or Rockland…. those suburbs where statewide races are usually won or lost. As a representative of an upstate district in a state where city Dems control the other levers of statewide power, she pays homage to the city first… Where do these people think statewide elections are won and lost?

The New York Times questions the integrity of Governor Paterson’s selection of Gillibrand for the senate. Continuing the theme of analyzing the “bigger picture” of state politics, the Times notes the effect of the selection on the public opinion of Paterson:

Two months later, some of Mr. Paterson’s own advisers say their worst fears have been realized. A process that they had hoped would elevate the governor, demonstrate his statesmanship and introduce him to the nation instead damaged his credibility and divided his party. Its final days were by turns intensely secretive and astoundingly public, culminating with personal attacks on Caroline Kennedy from the governor’s camp that astonished the state’s political establishment., the online presence of the lower Hudson Valley’s Journal News, also cites a decline in Paterson’s approval ratings:

Paterson has been roundly criticized for the way he picked Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to take the Senate seat of Hillary Clinton, angering supporters of Caroline Kennedy, who wanted the job and was viewed as the front-runner for the post.

Voters told Siena pollsters that they preferred “someone else’’ for governor next year, over Paterson, 36 percent to 32 percent.

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Sara Germano is an intern at CJR.