Born and raised in upstate New York, Kirsten inherited a dedication to public service from her grandmother and mother, who served tirelessly in their community. After drawing inspiration from these strong role models and others, as a young lawyer in New York City, Kirsten decided that pursuing a path of helping others was how she wanted to live her life.
After being turned down for numerous campaign and non-profit jobs, Kirsten received an opportunity to work at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington until the end of President Clinton’s administration. Kirsten then decided to move home to upstate New York to raise her family and ultimately run a long shot bid for Congress.
With a young son in tow, Kirsten ran for Congress in 2006 as an underdog, for a seat held by a long-term incumbent in a 2-1 Republican district. Undeterred, she won voters’ trust by calling for ethics reform, an end to the war in Iraq, and to cut health care costs through a Medicare-For-All proposal.
In Congress, Kirsten wasted no time making her mark. She became the first Member of Congress to post her official daily meetings, personal financial disclosures, and earmark requests online for her constituents. The New York Times called it “a quiet touch of revolution.” Kirsten has continued this commitment to transparency in the Senate by posting her personal tax returns and by voluntarily filing her campaign finance reports electronically.
In addition to leading by example on transparency, Kirsten has championed ethics reform and getting money out of political campaigns. She wrote and secured the passage of the STOCK Act, which finally made it illegal for Members of Congress, their families, and their staff to benefit from insider information gained through public service. At the time, the Washington Post called it the “most substantial debate on Congressional ethics in nearly five years.”
Kirsten also made her mark in Congress in a different way, when she became the sixth woman ever to give birth while serving in Congress. As one of two mothers of young children serving in the Senate, tackling the economic issues facing families has become a key focus of Kirsten’s legislative agenda which includes fighting for universal pre-K; affordable, high-quality day care; equal pay for equal work; and a national paid family and medical leave program. Kirsten has also led the fight to lower student loan debt and supports free or low-cost college for all.
Bipartisanship is a hallmark of Kirsten’s work. From passing the 9/11 Health bill to protect first responders sick and dying from the toxins at Ground Zero, to repealing the corrosive ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, to reforming the nation’s ethics laws, Kirsten has consistently worked across the aisle to build bipartisan coalitions and deliver results for her constituents without ever compromising her progressive values.
Stemming from her grandmother’s influence, Kirsten has made it her life’s mission to increase women’s voices in the public debate. In 2010, after the number of women elected to Congress decreased for the first time in three decades, Kirsten launched Off the Sidelines, a call to action to encourage every woman and girl to make her voice heard on the issues they care about. Since its inception, Off the Sidelines has recruited, mentored and supported dozens of women candidates for higher office and helped elect some of the Democratic Party’s brightest rising stars.
Kirsten’s home is in Troy, New York, not far from where she grew up. She lives with her husband, Jonathan, and their two sons, thirteen-year-old Theo and nine-year-old Henry. She is the first U.S. Senator for New York to hail from upstate in over 40 years. In 2012, 72 percent of New York voters re-elected her, the highest percentage of the vote ever received by a statewide candidate.