Kirsten starts NH 2020 bid with young Democrats in Manchester

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., meets with Democratic activists after her kickoff event for the 2020 presidential campaign at the Stark Brewing Co. in Manchester Friday, Feb. 1, 2019.

MANCHESTER — Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democratic senator, vowed to fight for reform of campaign finance, anti-discrimination, criminal justice, environmental and abortion rights laws.

During her kickoff campaign stop in the first-in-the-nation primary state, Gillibrand, 52, gave a short stump speech and answered several questions during a meeting of the New Hampshire Young Democrats.

“I promise you I have never backed down from a fight. It does not matter who I am fighting against; it is who I am fighting for,” Gillibrand said.

She made her remarks in a cramped rear room of the Stark Brewing Co. in the Millyard, a section that seated about 50 but nearly three times that many jammed into the space.

“Every generation has tried to take on a mission to make this country stronger and better and that is why I am so angry at what President Trump has done putting hate into the dialogue of this country,” Gillibrand said. “He is dividing us, making us weaker and not stronger.”

Gillibrand railed against profit-seeking industries she said were responsible for the opioid crisis, the high cost of health insurance and lax environmental standards.

“If you really want to find the fault and the cause of every evil in society, it is greed,” Gillibrand said.

The visit came about two weeks after Gillibrand formally entered the race and less than two months after she won reelection to her second, six-year term in the Senate.

A member of the U.S. House at the time from Upstate New York, Gillibrand first was appointed to the Senate seat to replace Hillary Clinton when Clinton became President Obama’s secretary of state in 2009.

If elected, Gillibrand vowed to work to convince Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which makes it illegal to spend federal money on abortions.

“I am 100 percent for you on this issue,” Gillibrand told the abortion rights supporter who asked the question.

A lawyer by profession, Gillibrand said support for gay rights is “personal for me” as members of her family are gay and she’s performed gay wedding ceremonies.

She voiced support for decriminalizing marijuana and more bail reform so that the poor don’t languish in jails prior to their trials.

“There are so many people who are incarcerated because they don’t have $100 to produce bail,” Gillibrand said.

“It is the whole point of this effort. We have to realize the challenges that other people are facing.”

Gillibrand last visited the state campaigning for Democratic candidate for governor Molly Kelly of Harrisville, who lost to Gov. Chris Sununu. Gillibrand said Kelly stood for a universal paid and family leave program that she supports and said Sununu “does not.”

Sununu backs with Gov. Phil Scott a voluntary, two-state paid and family leave program.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee said Gillibrand will have trouble winning over converts given that she has changed her views on hot button issues such as immigration reform and gun owner rights.

“Just what New Hampshire needs — another 2020 Democrat joining the ‘I’m sorry’ (presidential) tour. Chameleon Kirsten Gillibrand has flip-flopped on so many issues over the years that Granite Staters are going to have a hard time figuring out where she stands on anything,” said Mandi Merritt, communications director for the Republican National Committee. “However, we do know where she stands on running for President — it’s all about her, not New Hampshire families.”

Colin Van Ostern, the 2016 nominee for governor from Concord, said most activists here don’t know views Gillibrand had taken a decade or more ago.

“They’ll be fair taking the first long look at them now that she’s in the race,” Van Ostern said.

Gillibrand’s first New Hampshire tour today Saturday includes a coffee shop visit in Nashua, a walking tour in Portsmouth and a session with college Democrats at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

On Sunday she delivers remarks at the senior center in Littleton followed by a walking tour of the downtown.