ALBANY — It's not exactly "Groundhog Day" for Kirsten Gillibrand, New York's junior U.S. senator who is ramping up for a second, high-stakes campaign just two years after she won the seat. The Democrat has broader support, more recognition and more money than she did two years ago and, with just nine months to go, no big-name Republican has emerged to challenge her.
But state GOP leaders say they can still grab the seat and at least one recent poll suggests Gillibrand has yet to seal the deal with New York voters, some who still have a sketchy image of her.
"I don't know a lot about her," said Tom Schiavi, a 43-year-old truck driver from Buffalo. "I haven't heard anything bad about her. There haven't been any scandals or anything, which is good."
A registered Democrat, Schiavi said he'd vote for her unless someone he liked better entered the race.
Gillibrand faces the tight election schedule — full Senate terms run six years —after she was appointed in 2009 to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Gillibrand won the right in 2010 to fill out the remaining two years of Clinton's term and now has to pivot to another race.
This year's run for a full term comes during a year when Republicans can take control of the U.S. Senate if they can pick off four seats. Gillibrand's seat is generally considered more secure than some Democratic colleagues in more high-profile races, like Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Jon Tester in Montana.
Not only do Democrats hold a two-to-one registration advantage over Republicans in New York, but the formerly unknown congresswoman from a largely rural district in upstate New York has also worked hard woo New York's voters.