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Kirsten Gillibrand forming exploratory committee for 2020 White House run

The senator announced her entry into the Democratic presidential race on late-night television.
Image: Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand attends an event in Hollywood on June 1, 2017.Jerod Harris / Getty Images file

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced on Tuesday that she is forming an exploratory committee to consider a 2020 presidential bid.

"I'm going to run for president of the United States," the New York Democrat, 52, said on CBS' "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."

In a clip of her taped interview released online ahead of the show's broadcast Tuesday evening, Gillibrand said she is forming her exploratory committee "tonight," garnering big cheers from the audience.

"As a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as I’m going to fight for my own, which is why I believe that healthcare should be a right and not a privilege. It's why I believe we should have better public schools for a kid, because it shouldn’t matter what block you grow up on," she said.

Gillibrand, a longtime advocate of women who has been vocal in the #MeToo movement, vowed to take on "institutionalized racism," "corruption and greed in Washington," and the "special interests that write legislation in the dead of night."

"I know I have the compassion, the courage, and the fearless determination to get that done," she said.

Filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission for an exploratory committee will allow the senator to raise and spend money like a presidential candidate, before officially entering the race. Candidates are supposed to take this step within 15 days of raising or spending more than $5,000 on a potential bid. Gillibrand has been hiring campaign staffers, renting out a campaign headquarters, and is planning a trip to Iowa this weekend.

She promptly tweeted out a new campaign website, which solicits email addresses, donations and resumes for potential staffers.

Gillibrand's campaign will focus on her as an advocate for families and the disadvantaged, a leader on transparency in politics, and a fierce opponent of President Donald Trump, a campaign official told NBC News on Tuesday. In particular, voters can expect to hear about the senator's efforts to reform the handling of sexual assault in the military, pass a 9/11 health bill to aid first responders, and her efforts to encourage transparency in politics. She has said she is the first member of Congress to release her official daily meetings, earmark requests and personal financial disclosures online.

The official also stressed the senator's electability and appeal to moderates. She was easily re-elected to the Senate last November, winning 18 counties that voted for Trump in 2016.

In 2006, Gillibrand ran and won a House seat in a deep-red upstate New York near where she grew up. She won re-election to the seat in 2008, but was a relatively unknown figure when she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat in 2009. Since then, she's been re-elected three times and proven herself to be a prolific fundraiser. She’s raised $56 million in her 13 years in politics, according to Open Secrets. According to the campaign official, she has $10.5 million in the bank following her 2018 re-election bid.

In December 2017, she made headlines for leading the charge in calling on now-former Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota to resign after multiple women accused him of harassment or sexual misconduct.

Still, Gillibrand has a lower profile nationally than other potential 2020 Democrats: an early 2020 poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa found that a majority — 55 percent — hadn’t formed opinions on her, while 35 percent viewed her favorably and 10 percent viewed her negatively. Gillibrand's Senate colleague from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, who announced her own 2020 exploratory committee on New Year's Eve, was viewed favorably by 64 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in the same poll.

While the forum for her announcement may seem unusual, Gillibrand is a late-night regular. She’s appeared frequently on "The Daily Show" and first teased her 2020 interest on Colbert in November. She made her announcement with comedic flair, clasping hands with Colbert after he joked that she was "basically here last week."

For her time on Tuesday, Colbert gave Gillibrand a button that reads: "I announced on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert."