Chris Churchill

Albany Times Union (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - Chris Churchill ■ Con­tact colum­nist Chris Churchill at 518-4545442 or email [email protected] time­sunion. com

Gil­li­brand’s head­quar­ters mean big things for Troy.

For just a mo­ment, let’s put our bit­ter po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions aside. If you wor­ship at the feet of Don­ald Trump, ig­nore for now that Kirsten Gil­li­brand has branded her­self a key mem­ber of the re­sis­tance and that she is al­most cer­tainly go­ing to be one of the can­di­dates try­ing to un­seat him in 2020.

If you’re a lefty who wears a “Feel the Bern” tee to bed, ig­nore that Gil­li­brand was once a to­bacco-in­dus­try lawyer and a con­ser­va­tive Demo­crat who bragged about the guns un­der her bed.

And if you’re some­where in the mid­dle, for­get, just for now, that New York’s ju­nior se­na­tor vowed be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tion that she would serve out her six-year term and al­ready seems ready to aban­don that prom­ise.

Left and right, pro­gres­sive and con­ser­va­tive, we all agree that Gil­li­brand’s de­ci­sion to lo­cate her pres­i­den­tial cam­paign head­quar-

ters in Troy is great for the city and its ever-evolv­ing down­town. It’s good for the re­gion.

“It brings na­tional at­ten­tion,” said for­mer Troy mayor Harry Tu­tun­jian. “It brings me­dia and work­ers here. It fills ho­tel rooms and restau­rants.”

Tu­tun­jian, I should men­tion, is a Repub­li­can, and yet is nev­er­the­less will­ing to wel­come Team Gil­li­brand to his city. Isn’t that nice? See, we re­ally can all get along. Any­body re­mem­ber how the first verse of “Kum­baya” goes?

“It will help her de­liver things to Troy,” Tu­tun­jian added, “that she wasn’t able to de­liver as a con­gress­woman and a se­na­tor.” Well, it was nice while it lasted. Gil­li­brand has yet to for­mally an­nounce that she’s run­ning, but she is hir­ing aides for her pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, ac­cord­ing to the New York Times, and is plan­ning a visit to Iowa. Sources tell the Times Union that Gil­li­brand has leased 5,000 square feet of of­fice space in the Frear build­ing at River and Ful­ton streets.

The prom­i­nent down­town land­mark, a for­mer depart­ment store, is about three miles from Gil­li­brand’s home in Brunswick. More im­por­tantly, per­haps, it’s about a half block from The Bradley, which the se­na­tor has de­scribed on Twit­ter as “one of the best dive bars in all of Troy.”

Gil­li­brand, of course, is orig­i­nally from Al­bany, with deep fam­ily ties to the city’s po­lit­i­cal his­tory. So why not put her pres­i­den­tial cam­paign head­quar­ters there?

The an­swer is ob­vi­ous. Al­bany, through no fault of its own, is a bad po­lit­i­cal brand, given the Leg­is­la­ture’s pro­cliv­ity to­ward sleazi­ness and cor­rup­tion. Plus, there’s the An­drew Cuomo fac­tor. You don’t want a po­ten­tial ri­val pop­ping in or peek­ing through win­dows.

Se­cu­rity! Andy is here again!

No, the home­town of Un­cle Sam will do just fine. And for any­one who loves the city, it’s hard not to day­dream about where this all could go. What if Gil­li­brand, hardly con­sid­ered a front-run­ner, ac­tu­ally wins the nom­i­na­tion? What if she ... BE­COMES THE PRES­I­DENT?

“If a Demo­crat has to rise to the pres­i­dency, it would be nice to have it be a Demo­crat from Rens­se­laer County,” Tu­tun­jian said.

Gil­li­brand’s Brunswick home could be­come the Win­ter White House, the Mar-a-lago of the North. The Bradley could be­come a pres­i­den­tial hang­out; it might some­day sport a plaque not­ing that “Pres­i­dent Gil­li­brand drank here.” In 2030, the Gil­li­brand Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary could fi­nally fill that big ugly hole at One Mon­u­ment Square. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.

Sure, there would be down­sides. Pres­i­den­tial mo­tor­cades would block traf­fic. Tourist hordes might ruin the farm­ers mar­ket. You might bump into Jim Acosta at Di­nosaur Bar-b-que.

Hey, no­body said en­ter­ing the big time would be easy.

Our we get­ting ahead of our­selves? A re­cent CNN poll had Gil­li­brand with just 1 per­cent of the vote, way be­hind Joe Bi­den (30 per­cent) and Bernie Sanders (13 per­cent). She’s tied with Mon­tana Gov. Steve Bul­lock, who could walk naked through Times Square with­out be­ing rec­og­nized.

Gil­li­brand also faces lin­ger­ing and in­ex­pli­ca­ble anger from some Democrats over her call for Al Franken to re­sign, which is be­yond ridicu­lous. Eight women ac­cuse the for­mer Min­nesota se­na­tor of sex­ual im­pro­pri­ety and Gil­li­brand is re­spon­si­ble for his down­fall? C’mon.

Gil­li­brand’s ob­vi­ously cal­cu­lated pol­icy flops are a more valid rea­son for skep­ti­cism. (She has blamed for­merly con­ser­va­tive po­si­tions on guns and im­mi­gra­tion on her hav­ing an “up­state lens.”) But Pres­i­dent Obama “evolved” on gay mar­riage, among other is­sues, and no­body seemed to care. Trump changes his mind ev­ery other minute.

This much is true: Any­body who un­der­es­ti­mates Kirsten Gil­li­brand is mak­ing a mis­take. She has proven her­self far more po­lit­i­cally skilled and adept than most of us would have imag­ined when she an­nounced her can­di­dacy against John Sweeney back in 2006.

Is Gil­li­brand a 2020 long shot? Sure. Could she win? Yes.

Now, about that pres­i­den­tial li­brary.

John Carl D’an­ni­bale / Times Union

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand, cen­ter, in Troy this past July. Gil­li­brand has rented of­fice space in the Col­lar City for what is ex­pected to be her cam­paign head­quar­ters for a run at the pres­i­dency in 2020. She has yet to an­nounce her can­di­dacy.

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