TAMWORTH — Democratic presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at Tamworth Distilling on Saturday afternoon.
Gillibrand, 52, is the junior U.S. senator from New York and is running in a field of about two dozen Democrats.
She told the crowd ringing her in the distillery: “The day after the (2016 presidential) election, I woke up with enormous anxiety and fear and and concern about the future of this country,” said Gillibrand. “I felt that in every community I have been since President (Donald) Trump has been elected.”
She believes there’s an “unbelievable, unquenchable fire” across the land to defeat Trump and what America needs is a “working mom in the White House. When women are in charge, we get things done,” Gillibrand said to applause.
Gillibrand lives in Brunswick, N.Y., with husband, Jonathan Gillibrand, and their sons, Theo, 15, and Henry, 11.
The “center of the rot,” said Gillibrand, is money in politics. She called on the audience to imagine a world where the students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where multiple people were killed in a shooting last year, had has much influence as the National Rifle Association or gunmakers.
She also asked her listeners to imagine having health care as a right.
“I have the most comprehensive, transformative plan of any presidential candidate today to have publicly funded elections,” she said. “To go right after the corruption in our democracy. To have a direct democracy.”
Among her accomplishments, Gillibrand listed helping get a law passed to ban insider trading. “I’ve taken on the banks even as a member of Congress from New York,” said Gillibrand. “When both parties were throwing billions at banks during the financial collapse, I bothered to read the bill. It was designed to leave taxpayers holding the bag.”
She also fought for the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that discriminated against gays in the military.
Gillibrand said no member of Congress has voted against Trump’s agenda more often than she, adding that in last year’s election she won 18 counties that Trump took in 2016.
That said, she said she can work across the aisle and she had even managed to pass legislation in the Republican controlled House and Senate with Trump in the White House.
“He does not know he signed my bills into law,” she said of Trump. “I get things done.”
During a Q-and-A, the first question came from a woman who said she was a licensed clinical social worker. She noted that health insurance companies make it hard for her to bill and for patients to get the care they need.
Gillibrand said she ran for Congress in 2006 with Medicare for all on her platform. Her idea is that people could buy into Medicare with 4-5 percent of their income. Those who buy in would find that Medicare would be less expensive than private insurance but would cover more needs. She said most Americans would end up paying less than $4,000 per year.
“I would ultimately make Medicare an earned benefit just like Social Security, where everyone buys in matched by their employer,” said Gillibrand. Then she would take on the insurance and drug companies so the cost of medications will go down. If drugs couldn’t be made into a generic, then the National Institutes of Health should make them, she said.
A shortage of physicians in rural areas and inner cities could be addressed with a national service plan, Gillibrand said. She suggested a year of public service could pay for two years of community college or a state school. One man asked about states that depend on the fossil fuels industry.
Gillibrand said she believes climate change is the greatest threat to humanity. She said she would rejoin and lead the Paris Accords and also spark a “clean energy race” with China and make it possible for states like West Virginia to add jobs in clean energy.
“You go right into the states that would be disproportionately affected by the green energy dream, and you give them the training to do manufacturing and production in their states,” said Gillibrand, adding that Texas is diversifying its industries away from oil and West Virginia could, too.