Senator Gillibrand formally launches presidential campaign





By Ginger Gibson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand formally launched her presidential bid on Sunday morning, announcing she will deliver her first major speech next week in front of Trump International Hotel in New York City.

Gillibrand, who launched an exploratory committee earlier this year as a precursor, joins more than a dozen other Democrats who have already formally entered the contest to win the nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

"We need a leader who makes big, bold, brave choices. Someone who isn't afraid of progress," Gillibrand says in a video released Sunday morning to formalize her entry into the campaign. "That's why I'm running for president. And it's why I'm asking you for your support."

Gillibrand, 52, had already been campaigning in key states that hold early primary contests. She has struggled to see her polling numbers increase in the wake of her initial announcement, a benefit some of her other opponents enjoyed after starting their campaigns. Gillibrand remains at 1 percent in most public opinion polls of the Democratic primary.

Gillibrand opted to use a video instead of a speech at a rally, the traditional method, to formally launch her campaign. She will travel on Monday to campaign in Michigan, followed by stops in key early contest states of Iowa and Nevada.

On March 24, Gillibrand will deliver a launch speech in her home state in front of Trump International Hotel in New York City, to take "her positive, brave vision of restoring America's moral integrity straight to President Trump's doorstep," her campaign said.

The launch video released Sunday morning alludes to several policy debates, including immigration, gun control and climate change.

"We launched ourselves into space and landed on the moon. If we can do that, we can definitely achieve universal health care," Gillibrand said in the video. "We can provide paid family leave for all, end gun violence, pass a Green New Deal, get money out of politics and take back our democracy."

Gillibrand has sought to position herself as a unifying figure who can appeal to rural voters.

Some in the Democratic party believe an establishment figure who can appeal to centrist voters is the way to victory. Others argue a fresh face, and particularly a diverse one, is needed to energize the party's increasingly left-leaning base.

Gillibrand was a member of the centrist and fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition while in the House of Representatives. Her positions became more liberal after she was appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton in New York when Clinton became former President Barack Obama's secretary of state.

Gillibrand then won the seat in a special election and was re-elected to six-year terms in 2012 and 2018. She has attributed the ideology shift to representing a liberal state versus a more conservative district.

As a senator, Gillibrand was outspoken about rape in the military and campus sexual assault years before the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault first arose in 2017.

In late 2017, as she pushed for a bill changing how Congress processes and settles sexual harassment allegations made by staffers, some prominent party leaders criticized 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, Gillibrand said Hillary 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. Some criticized the senator for attacking the Clintons, who had supported her political career.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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