AOC is ‘not planning’ to run for Senate in 2024
For months, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand faced nagging questions about whether she’d be primaried from her left when she was up for reelection next year. The chatter grew so loud that party insiders wondered if she’d run at all.
But since the New York Democrat formally announced her reelection bid in January, she appears to be clearing the field.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), one of Gillibrand’s strongest possible challengers, is all but closing the door on a possible run.
“She is not planning to run for Senate in 2024. She is not planning to primary Gillibrand,” Lauren Hitt, Ocasio-Cortez’s spokesperson, told POLITICO.
Other possible challengers have already opted out of the race. Former New York Rep. Mondaire Jones, a progressive, has decided he won’t run for Gillibrand’s seat next year after privately considering a bid, according to a person familiar with his plans who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about internal deliberations. Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) also told POLITICO they are not interested in the race.
“Sen. Gillibrand has represented our state incredibly well,” said Isaac Goldberg, a Democratic consultant based in New York. “There’s no energy right now to go after someone who spends her time protecting the right to choose, fighting for paid leave, family leave, workers’ rights and a green economy and everything else Democrats in this state value.”
Political calculations can change, of course. Ocasio-Cortez saying she isn’t planning to run is different from her declaring that she won’t. But her comment is the most definitive statement to date that a 2024 Senate campaign is not in the cards. If the congresswoman follows through with her intention to skip a Senate bid, it would go a long way toward smoothing the path to reelection for Gillibrand, whose main concern has been the political challenges she faces from within her party. Previously, there had been talk among Ocasio-Cortez’s former aides that she could run.
Indeed, Gillibrand maintains strong personal relationships that may have deterred some challengers, allies and supporters said. That included having what she called a “lovely lunch” with Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff in the Senate Dining Room in January.
Gillibrand is also benefiting from the bruises New York Democrats suffered in 2022. The party saw four House seats flip to Republican during the midterms. And many top state Democratic officials said they want to avoid an acrimonious primary in order to focus on recovering those House seats and protecting battleground members like Rep. Pat Ryan.
“I think it’s divisive. And unless you think you can win, it’s divisive unnecessarily,” said Jay Jacobs, chair of the New York Democratic Party. “It’s using up resources we need to preserve for more coordinated work and the rest.”
Camille Rivera, a New York-based progressive strategist, said competitive primaries often benefit democracy and candidates, but that a Democratic contest at this time in New York “could be pretty bruising and give a Republican a leg up.”
A Democratic strategist close to the Working Families Party, a liberal group founded in New York, said there isn’t any appetite within the organization to challenge Gillibrand.
“2024 will be a big year and [New York] will be vital to taking back Congress,” the person said. “That will be an important focus for the WFP.”
State party officials are already developing a collaborative campaigning and fundraising effort led by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). Gillibrand’s also in “regular” conversation with Jeffries about the coordinated campaign, according to a person close to Gillibrand’s campaign.
In a statement, Gillibrand spokesperson Evan Lukaske said she is “excited to run on her record of delivering for New York families. From making gun trafficking a federal crime to securing health benefits for 9/11 survivors to bringing home hundreds of millions of dollars for projects that will boost the economy, Senator Gillibrand has consistently gotten real results.”
But it wasn’t too long ago when Gillibrand’s future was less certain. She had come off a presidential bid that ended before the first primary contests, faced criticism for her role in former-Sen. Al Franken’s resignation, and accepted donations from crypto-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. (Gillibrand’s team said she has donated the money to a nonprofit.)
“[Gillibrand] effectively hasn’t been here until it’s been election time,” said Michael Blake, a former Bronx-based assembly member and Democratic National Committee vice chair. “She made a previous run for president. I don’t think her family even goes to school here in New York anymore. I mean, I think there’s a fair question of: Does she truly want to represent?”
Gillibrand’s perceived weaknesses are partly due to the state she represents and the era in which she represents it. Many progressives view New York as a liberal bastion and think its senator should reflect that. And though Gillibrand would be considered very liberal in numerous states around the country — having voted with President Joe Biden 95 percent of the time — many on the left aren’t comfortable with her Wall Street ties and view her as an ideological interloper.
Among those who would be best equipped to challenge Gillibrand would be Ocasio-Cortez, who has national name ID and major cash on hand ($5 million in the bank compared with the senator’s $6 million). But the congresswoman has long been coy about her future ambitions. There was talk that she might challenge Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) last year and the prospect of that happening did — to the delight of progressives — nudge the Senate majority leader to the left. But a campaign against him never materialized.
Bowman, an ally to Ocasio-Cortez, said “weeks ago or months ago maybe, I heard her name” mentioned as a primary contender. But he said he hasn’t heard that “for months or weeks.”
Though most of the chatter about Gillibrand’s vulnerability comes from her left, another Democrat whose name has been floated as a potential opponent is former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo resigned amid accusations that he sexually harassed multiple women. He denies the allegations.
A spokesperson for Cuomo declined to comment for this story. The former governor sits on a war chest of about $10 million, but in a state — not federal — elections account.
“I’ve heard rumors and I’ve heard speculation, but I have not heard from any specific candidate that is giving it serious thought or beginning to raise money or hire staff,” Jacobs said. “So my guess is, unless something emerges soon, it’s going to be just a lot of talk.”
Go To Source