New York Senate
Harry Hamburg  /  AP
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., at a news conference on Capitol Hill in May.
updated 7/1/2009 2:12:09 PM ET 2009-07-01T18:12:09

Rejecting a plea from Vice President Joe Biden, New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney will challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the state's Democratic primary, setting the stage for a potentially costly and contentious fight.

The nine-term congresswoman believes New Yorkers need a "strong, experienced and independent leader," according to a statement Wednesday by Paul Blank, director of Trippi & Associates, which has been hired by Maloney to serve as a chief strategist.

Blank said Maloney is putting together a campaign team and will make her announcement in two weeks.

Gillibrand, 42, was appointed by New York Gov. David Paterson to fill the vacancy created by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's appointment as secretary of state. She was appointed after Caroline Kennedy abruptly withdrew from consideration.

Gillibrand then was a little-known congresswoman from upstate New York, first elected to the House in 2006. The appointment stewed resentment among others who considered her views on guns and immigration not liberal enough.

Since then, two potential contenders — Reps. Steve Israel and Carolyn McCarthy — have opted out.

Maloney, 61, who represents Manhattan's Upper East Side, declined to do so, even after a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has also expressed White House support for Gillibrand.

A Marist Poll released Wednesday showed Maloney and Gillibrand in a statistical tie among registered Democrats.

In response to Maloney's decision, Gillibrand's campaign issued a statement saying she is "entirely focused on her job representing New Yorkers in the U.S. Senate and is working closely with President Obama to fix the economy, create jobs and reform our broken health care system."

On the Republican side, former New York Gov. George Pataki and Rep. Pete King are possible contenders for the seat.

The story was first reported by the New York Daily News.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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