WASHINGTON – Election Day could not have been much sweeter for Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who won re-election to her first full term in record-breaking fashion while watching five women whom she helped win Senate campaigns.
Gillibrand earned 72 percent of the vote against Republican Wendy Long – a larger share of the vote than any senator in New York history. Gillibrand’s senior colleague, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, previously held the record with 71 percent against Republican Assemblyman Howard Long in 2004.
Moreover, Gillibrand saw her “Off the Sidelines” effort, which aims to bring more women into elective office, pay off in a big way.
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii – all Democrats who got financial help and counsel from Gillibrand – all won Senate seats.
In addition, Gillibrand helped Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., fend off a challenge from Republican Todd Akin, whose campaign imploded after he said women don’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.”
And while Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Hamburg, narrowly lost her bid for re-election, two House candidates backed by Gillibrand – Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. – won.
In total, Gillibrand raised more than $1 million for those women candidates.
“We helped a lot,” she said.
And the help didn’t stop with fundraising. Gillibrand met with the Democratic women running for the Senate and offered them advice from her own campaign experience.
“It was mostly encouragement and a little bit of advice,” Gillibrand said.
Then again, Gillibrand said all those women were great candidates.
“If you look at each one of these candidates, they’re very strong individuals,” she said. “Each woman had something to offer, and each one of them ran on a platform of getting things done.”
Thanks to the election of those candidates, there will be 20 female senators – more than ever before.
And if Gillibrand is right, it will mean that the Senate will be more friendly to compromise.
“That’s one of the attributes that makes women candidates so potentially effective in Washington,” she said.
“They do have the ability to reach across party lines and leave party politics at the door and bring people together to get things done.”