We hear _ from a goodly number of unreliable sources _ that Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand is under strong consideration to be New York's next United States senator.

The sources are unreliable because if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is named _ as expected _ today as the next secretary of state, Gov. David Paterson's opinion about a senatorial selection will be the only one that counts.

Paterson will appoint a senator for a term of two years, after which there will be an election to fill out the remaining two years of what was Clinton's term. After those two years, another election will be held for a full six-year term.

We have this to say about Gillibrand, who represents the 20th Congressional District that includes parts of this newspaper's circulation area.

The governor could do a whole lot worse than Kirsten Gillibrand.

Though Gillibrand is entering only her second term in the House of Representatives, there is no comparison to the ditzy Sarah Palin when it comes to being knowledgeable about national and world issues.

In each of her campaigns, Gillibrand has appeared before The Daily Star's contentious editorial board and gave as good as she got. She was able to disagree without being disagreeable and showed a firm grasp of what's going on in Washington, D.C., and in her district.

She is smart, hard-working, involved and a prodigious fundraiser. Running as a Democrat in a district with an 85,000 Republican registration plurality, she has won two elections handily.

She's a magna cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College and received a law degree from UCLA.

Also going for her is that her selection would mean a woman would be replacing a woman senator. In addition, Gillibrand has shown she can appeal to crucial upstate voters.

Others being mentioned for the appointment include state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and environmental advocate Robert Kennedy Jr., whose father once held the seat now occupied by Clinton.

Gillibrand was a special counsel to Cuomo when he served in the Clinton administration as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Going against Gillibrand's selection would be that she is relatively unknown statewide and that it may be hard for the Democrats to hold on to her House seat with any other candidate.

It is our opinion that the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to whether Gillibrand should be a senator. She would bring a keen intellect, political awareness and give a voice to upstate interests.

We urge Gov. Paterson to give her the highest consideration.

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