MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand agreed with every position raised by enthusiastic young voters in New Hampshire on Friday night except one: appointing a bipartisan Cabinet.
The New York senator kicked off a weekend of campaigning in the state that will hold the earliest presidential primary next year with a speech in a crowded back corner of a Manchester brewery. She accused President Donald Trump of dividing and weakening the nation and said she would bring it together.
But when a college student asked her to prove her commitment to uniting the country by appointing Republicans to her Cabinet, she said, “Interesting idea, but no.”
Gillibrand said the fact that 18 of her bills passed under a Republican Congress and president shows she can work with politicians on both side of the aisle.
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“I know how to find common ground in red and purple places,” she said.
The student, 22-year-old Madison Mangels, said later that while she understood Gillibrand’s reasoning and thinks she’s done a “tremendous job being senator,” she believes a bipartisan Cabinet would be an important step toward ending divisiveness in politics.
Mangels wasn’t ready to throw her support behind Gillibrand. “There are so many great candidates, I really want to wait until everyone’s out in the open to make a decision,” she said.
The event was organized by the New Hampshire Young Democrats, which seen its membership grow more than tenfold in the last two years and was energized by electing more than three dozen Democrats under the age of 40 to the state Legislature in November.
Meghan Hoskins, 26, of Portsmouth, liked what she heard from Gillibrand on climate change, immigration, LGBTQ rights and other issues.
“Those issues are all important to me. I’d say she’s definitely in my top three,” said Hoskins, who also is leaning toward the two other female senators in the race, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Gillibrand, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to fill the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, has been among the Senate’s most vocal members on issues like sexual harassment, military sexual assault, equal pay for women and family leave. On the campaign trail so far, she has cast herself as a fighter for children in particular.
On issues ranging from bail reform to climate change, she told the crowd Friday to imagine “the fear as a parent” — first, as a parent separated from a child because he couldn’t afford to post bail, then as a parent whose child was swept away by Superstorm Sandy. She argued she is well-equipped to address those problems because she has both compassion and courage to act.
It was not Gillibrand’s first trip to New Hampshire. She campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Molly Kelly in October, and is a graduate of Dartmouth College.