By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been taking steps to prepare for a run for the White House in 2020, is scheduled to appear on CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday night and is expected to discuss her political plans.
The senator from New York has hired several top political aides in recent weeks, fuelling speculation her jump into the 2020 fray was imminent.
Her staff would not confirm details about her announcement. CBS News, citing an unnamed person familiar with Gillibrand’s plans, reported she is expected to launch her White House bid.
Gillibrand, 52, is known for spearheading efforts to change how Congress handles allegations of sexual harassment and became a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement.
There is no dominant early front-runner in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic nominating race to take on President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee. But Gillibrand will have to compete against better-known candidates in a party still debating the best path forward after losing the White House in 2016.
Some in the 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 energise 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.
Gillibrand backs a Medicare-for-all bill championed by Democratic Party liberals. She was the first senator to call in June 2018 for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) amid controversy over Trump’s separation of families entering the country at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In December 2017, Trump targeted her with a sexually tinged tweet, calling her a “total flunky” who had “come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them).”
Gillibrand shot back immediately on Twitter.
“You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office,” she wrote.
(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)