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US senator puts gender and motherhood at heart of her pitch for the presidency

Kirsten Gillibrand has thrown her hat into the ring to succeed Donald Trump at the White House.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand hopes to be the next US president (Hans Pennink/AP))
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand hopes to be the next US president (Hans Pennink/AP))

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand plans to put gender issues at the heart of her campaign for the US presidency.

Speaking outside a diner in Troy, New York State she said is “a stone’s throw” from her family’s house, Ms Gillibrand framed the campaign as an extension of motherhood.

“I’m going to run for president of the United States because as a young mom, I will fight for your children as hard as I would fight for my own,” Ms Gillibrand, 52, said as she was joined by her husband, Jonathan, their 10- and 15-year-old sons, and her mother, Polly.

That argument could resonate in a Democratic primary in which women will be a crucial voting bloc and comes on the heels of a midterm election that sent a record number of women to Congress.

But Ms Gillibrand, who announced the creation of a presidential exploratory committee Tuesday on CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, faces a series of hurdles.

She will not be the only woman seeking the White House, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii have already jumped into the race, and several other prominent women are expected to soon follow them.

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Presidential candidate, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, second from right, arrives at the Country View Diner with her sons, Theodore, left, Henry, second from left, and her mother Polly Rutnik (Paul Buckowski/AP)

And there are persistent questions about whether, more than two years after Hillary Clinton fell short of the White House, Americans have grappled with sexism and are willing to support another woman running for president.

The first question Ms Gillibrand received at her press conference Wednesday showed the scrutiny she and other women could face, as a reporter said a lot of people see her as “pretty likeable”.

The remark touched on a raging debate about why women in politics are held to a different standard than men regarding their perceived likeability.

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Kirsten Gillibrand hopes to be the first female president of the United States (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

First appointed to the Senate in 2009 to fill the seat vacated by Mrs Clinton, Ms Gillibrand has been among the chamber’s most vocal members on issues like sexual harassment, military sexual assault, equal pay for women and paid family leave.

But she angered some fellow Democrats in November 2017 when she said former president Bill Clinton should have resigned after his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

She was also the first prominent Democrat to call on her Senate colleague Al Franken to quit after accusations of sexual misconduct from multiple women.

She defended her actions on Wednesday.

“I just couldn’t stay silent,” she said, referring to Mr Franken.

“My job was not to stay silent. I couldn’t defend it, and I had to do what was right.

“And if some wealthy individuals, that makes them angry, that’s on them.”

PA

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