- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Senate was down to one vacancy Tuesday as Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand was sworn in on the Senate floor to take the seat vacated by new Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. administered the oath to Mrs. Gillibrand as President Obama was meeting with congressional Republicans on Capitol Hill to lobby for his economic-stimulus plan.

Mrs. Gillibrand, a second-term congresswoman from upstate New York, was selected by New York Gov. David Paterson last week over a number of better-known candidates, including presidential daughter Caroline Kennedy and New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, bearers of two of the most famous names in Democratic politics. At 42, Mrs. Gillibrand is the youngest senator in the chamber and the 17th woman there.

With her swearing-in, the only vacant seat remaining is in Minnesota, where incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken are engaged in a drawn-out recount battle following the Nov. 4 election. Democrats currently hold a 58-41 majority.

Mrs. Gillibrand, a conservative Democrat who has opposed gun-control laws, could face a tough re-election fight in 2010. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, is considering a primary challenge and Republican Rep. Peter T. King is planning to run for the Senate as well.

New York Republicans also say they have a strong shot in the special election to take back Mrs. Gillibrand’s House seat in a largely rural district on the outskirts of Albany, where the party has a sizable registration advantage over Democrats.

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