New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is fighting for a toehold in her party’s presidential primary, and her relatively conservative voting record as a Congresswoman in upstate New York has already emerged as an issue.
Gillibrand has tacked left on social issues since becoming a senator, and used this perch to attack Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016 for a few moderate votes he took on gun-related issues. In an interview where she broke out crying, Gillibrand claimed, “Every mom takes their kid to a park. And she took her kid to a park and the kid was killed, a baby, a 4-year-old. … [Sanders] doesn’t have the sensitivity he needs to the horror that is happening in these families. I just don’t think he’s fully getting how horrible it is for these families.”
To be clear, Democrats by and large picked no bones with Sanders about guns at any point in his career except for during the presidential primary. The criticisms he took were political, aimed to benefit former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sanders held a D-minus from the National Rifle Association, and has been a lifetime supporter of the Assault Weapons Ban, universal background checks, and virtually every other mainstream gun control proposal.
With that being said, he is not the most left-wing person in the country when it comes to gun control. He voted for a measure that would limit legal liability for gun manufacturers, a vote he took out of concern that Vermont gun stores would be open to lawsuits. It’s perfectly fine to take an issue with his votes, but portraying him as some sort of right-winger on guns doesn’t fit with the record.
Interestingly, however, Gillibrand may not be so committed to the far-left end of the gun control debate.
She recently hired Evan Lukaske as her national press secretary. Lukaske was a fairly obscure staffer for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect House Democrats.
But the Huffington Posts’s Daniel Marans briefly made Lukaske famous by publishing an email Lukaske sent to House candidates warning them to not immediately talk about gun control after the tragic 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas:
Lukaske isn’t the only party establishment hand Gillibrand has hired to do her communications work. She also hired the DCCC’s Meredith Kelly, who oversaw a bizarre intervention against a Texas progressive congressional candidate.
Gillibrand has been making public overtures to court progressive activists, despite her moderate conservative voting record in Congress. But as they say, “personnel is policy,” and her hires so far suggest that she is not very interested in assembling a progressive team.