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Kirsten Gillibrand, born in 1966, is not the first woman in her family to become involved in politics. Her grandmother, Polly Noonan, was the founder of the influential Albany Democratic Club and was a major player in Albany Mayor Erastus Corning's political machine. Gillibrand, the daughter of two attorneys, was raised in Albany. She attended Dartmouth University and UCLA School of Law. Gillibrand worked at the private Manhattan-based law firm Davis Polk in the early 1990s, although she took a brief leave in 1992 to serve as a law clerk to Circuit Court Judge Roger Miner, a Ronald Reagan appointee. She served as special counsel to then-HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo in the final year of the Clinton administration. She was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, and worked on her 2000 Senate campaign. Clinton became a mentor to Gillibrand, and encouraged Gillibrand to run for office in 2006 rather than in 2004, believing that running two years later would give her a greater chance of winning. Gillibrand defeated four-term Rep. John Sweeney, who represented a conservative district, in 2006. Gillibrand was a moderate congresswoman and a member of the conservative Democrat Blue Dog Caucus. She supported a bill to withhold funds from sanctuary cities, and received a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association. After Clinton left the Senate in 2009 to become secretary of state, Gov. David Paterson appointed Gillibrand to replace her. Gillibrand's positions have become more progressive during her time in the Senate.
Gillibrand advocated the repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on LGBT military service when she got to the Senate in 2009. She made a name for herself in the Senate by addressing sexual assault in the military. She proposed legislation that would remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command in 2013, legislation which was co-sponsored by Republican Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Although the legislation failed, it raised her profile as an advocate for women. Gillibrand has acknowledged her changed positions on immigration and gun control, saying in a "60 Minutes" profile in 2018 that she was "embarrassed and ashamed" of her stances while serving in the House. Health care has been an important issue for Gillibrand since entering the Senate. She came out in favor of single-payer healthcare in 2017 and co-sponsored a Medicare-for-all bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders. She was the first sitting senator to call for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished, a popular cause on the left.
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