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Kirsten Gillibrand Tells Stephen Colbert She’s Forming 2020 Exploratory Committee

Kirsten Gillibrand
Amy Sussman/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) told Stephen Colbert on Tuesday’s “Late Show” that she was forming a presidential exploratory committee, the latest Democrat to move toward a bid for the White House.

Gillibrand chose to make the announcement on Colbert’s show, reflecting the influence and national reach of the late night host. He’s become a favorite stopping point for politicians who harbor national ambitions.

“I’m filing for an exploratory committee for president of the United States tonight,” she said.

Gillibrand joins Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in forming an exploratory committee. Last weekend, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro launched his presidential bid. John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, entered the race in 2017.

CBS broke the news about Gillibrand’s announcement in a clip it posted to Twitter shortly after the interview was taped, giving her campaign the exposure on Tuesday’s evening news shows.

Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton after she resigned to become secretary of state. She was elected to a full six-year term in 2012 and reelected last year.

Asked by Colbert why she was running, Gillibrand said that “because as a young mom I am going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own. That is why I believe that healthcare should be a right and not a privilege. It is why I believe better public schools for our kids because it shouldn’t matter what block you grow up on. And I believe that anyone who wants to work hard enough should be able to get whatever job training they need to earn their way into the middle class.”

She said that none of that can be accomplished unless you take on “the systems of power which make all of that make all of that impossible, which is taking on institutional racism, which is taking on the corruption and greed in Washington, taking on the special interests that write legislation in the dead of night.”

“I know that I have the compassion, the courage and the fearless determination to get that done.”

Asked what the first thing she would do in office, Gillibrand told Colbert, “The first thing I would do is restore what has been lost, the integrity, and the compassion of this country. I would bring people together to start getting things done.”

As Colbert asked her how she would end the shutdown, she talked of finding common ground with Republicans, and noted her work in passing a health bill for 9/11 first responders, ending the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and teaming with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on anti-sexual harassment legislation. He also asked her about her penchant for swearing, and whether she would pledge to avoid it now that she is running for president. “I am going to definitely try,” she said. He pressed her on what the word is she will miss the most, and she said, “Rhymes with duck.”

Colbert ended the 10-minute interview by giving her a basket of campaign gifts, which included a baby doll, a piece of granite and a plane ticket to Michigan so she would “actually campaign there.” He also gave her a “one of a kind pin, so far,” that read, “I announced on Stephen Colbert.”

Gillibrand, 52, is one of the most visible Senate advocates for the MeToo movement, and drew some heat from fellow Democrats and donors, including those in the entertainment industry, when she was the first of the party’s senators to call on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign. Franken had been accused of inappropriately touching several women.

Still ,she has been a popular figure among donors in the entertainment industry. She raised $462,978 from industry sources for her 2018 reelection campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That placed her among the top 10 recipients of showbiz money during the midterms. Among those who gave to her campaign were CAA’s Bryan Lourd, David Geffen, Universal’s Jeff Shell, Barbra Streisand and producer Nina Tassler.