Gillibrand makes big moves toward 2020 campaign

AP

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FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2018 file photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks during the New York Senate debate hosted by WABC-TV, in New York. Multiple people tell The Associated Press that Gillibrand is looking at Troy, New York, as a potential headquarters for a 2020 presidential bid. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is moving aggressively toward an expected presidential bid, filling out key staff positions, traveling to key states and nearing a choice on the location for a campaign headquarters, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

The New York Democrat is expected to make her debut in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa next weekend. Among her stops, Gillibrand plans to headline a Woodbury County Democrats Truman Club gathering at a private home in Sioux City on the evening of January 18. Although the event is expected to be an intimate gathering of only a couple dozen donors and influential activists, it will be hard to avoid the comparison of a recent event Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts held in Sioux City, when she packed 400 into a refurbished downtown theater.

Gillibrand is considering a February announcement, according to one person familiar with the discussions, who cautioned that the partial government shutdown could have an impact on the timing.

The senator is filling out important campaign staff positions, including recruiting Meredith Kelly, the former spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to head her communications efforts, according to the person. Alexandria Phillips, Gillibrand's congressional press secretary and a former Hillary Clinton aide, and Jess Fassler, who served as Gillibrand's Senate chief of staff, will also join the campaign, the person said.

Dan McNally, a veteran Democratic operative who managed Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet's campaign in 2016, will also come on board.

Gillibrand's team is eyeing Troy, New York, a small upstate city on the Hudson River, as a headquarters, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

All of the people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The selection of Troy, 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Manhattan, could allow Gillibrand to highlight her roots in upstate New York, where she was born and later represented in Congress before being appointed to the Senate. Gillibrand's representatives didn't comment Thursday on her choice of headquarters.

If Gillibrand enters the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, she will join a field that could draw dozens of candidates, including many of her Senate colleagues. Warren has already formed an exploratory committee and is moving quickly with trips across early primary states. California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, are all weighing their own presidential bids and are expected to announce decisions in the upcoming weeks.

Other Democrats, including billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, have declined to run in 2020.

Gillibrand easily won re-election to the Senate in 2018 with more than $10.6 million in campaign money left over that she could funnel toward a presidential bid. In recent weeks, she has worked to expand her fundraising network and to improve her standing among critical voting blocs, including African-American voters.

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Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

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