Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand could face a bruising Democratic primary from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or a similarly far-left rival, insiders say.
Gillibrand, the state’s junior senator, who was first appointed to the job a decade ago by former Gov. Paterson, announced last week her intention to seek re-election in 2024.
The two-term lawmaker would be formidable. Her campaign committee is sitting on more than $4 million.
AOC, however, has more than $5.4 million in her campaign war chest, according to her most recent filings.
“She could do it. Oh, my God, could she do it,” said Ryan Adams, a New York City-based Democratic consultant who often works with progressive candidates, of an AOC challenge.
“If she ran for Senate the fundraising that would come in from all around the country would easily make her competitive. And nobody campaigns like her. Everyone would come out,” Adams continued. “The apparatus that would spring up around her would be unstoppable. People would fly in from other states to volunteer with her.”
A person close to AOC said the congresswoman was interested in a Senate run at some point but refused to elaborate. There was fevered speculation she would challenge Sen. Chuck Schumer last year, an idea which came to nothing. A former staffer for the congresswoman told The Post last year that AOC could easily best Gilly in a primary.
Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres has also been floated as a possible opponent. He has a respectable $3.8 million in the campaign bank.
“There are rumblings in his circles pushing him to eventually go for the Senate,” said a person close to Torres, who added the congressman was lukewarm on the idea and currently more focused on growing his seniority in the House. Torres recently donated $10,000 to Gillibrand’s re-election fund.
“I don’t think it’s impossible,” Jeremy Cohen, co-chairman of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America, said of a progressive primary against Gillibrand, adding that the Big Apple’s card-carrying reds would be watching the senator closely to see if she would be a champion of their causes — “like Bernie Sanders.”
Reps for Torres and AOC did not respond to requests for comment from The Post.
Experts said Gillibrand was vulnerable for a variety of reasons. For her entire career in Washington D.C., the senator has labored in the shadow of Schumer, who is now Senate Majority Leader and an old-school bring-home-the-bacon dealmaker.
While Gillibrand has made a name for herself as a champion of certain marquee liberal causes, she has not distinguished herself as a “pot-hole” senator like Schumer or his predecessor Al D’Amato, critics say.
“She is a policy person on issues which New Yorkers care about — like women’s issues and reforming the code of military justice — but the average person in the South Bronx is not thinking about this,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist.
Others noted that Gillibrand, an upstater, didn’t have a natural power base in New York City and was also deflated by a lackluster presidential campaign in 2020.
AOC would also carry the predictable baggage, including past stances to defund the police, criticism of Israel, and her opposition to an Amazon headquarters in Queens. Out-of-control crime, a consequence of policies championed by progressives, nearly cost Gov. Hochul her reelection.
Team Gillibrand said they were confident.
“From making gun trafficking a federal crime to securing health benefits for 9/11 survivors and our veterans to bringing home millions of dollars to boost the economy, Senator Gillibrand has delivered for the people of New York. She’s confident New Yorkers will re-elect her,” said spokesman Evan Lukaske.