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Gov. David Paterson has picked Democratic U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill New York‘s vacant U.S. Senate seat, an aide to the governor said early Friday, a day after Caroline Kennedy abruptly withdrew from consideration.

Gillibrand, a second-term lawmaker from upstate New York, will be named to fill the seat vacated when Hillary Rodham Clinton resigned to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because an announcement hadn’t been made. An announcement was scheduled for later Friday.

Gillibrand’s office didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

She was considered one of the top contenders in Paterson’s selection process, along with Kennedy and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Paterson’s appointment lasts until 2010, when a special election will be held to fill the final two years of Clinton’s term.

Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, called the governor around midday Wednesday and told him she was having second thoughts about the job, according to a person close to Paterson, who said she later decided to remain in contention, only to announce her withdrawal early Thursday in an e-mail.

Others in the field, led by more senior politicians, including U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, criticized Gillibrand as recently as Thursday evening, saying her support of more conservative issues such as gun ownership rights was out of step with most New York Democrats.

But Gillibrand (JIL’-uh-brand) is a proven vote-getter in an eastern New York district that sprawls from the mid-Hudson Valley to north of Albany. She defeated a long-term Republican incumbent in 2006 and won re-election last year by a wide margin.

“Gender plus geography equals Gillibrand,” said Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College. He said her upstate base would help Paterson’s 2010 ticket, which otherwise would be dominated by New York City residents like himself.

Gillibrand, 42, becomes the only woman on a ticket that will include Paterson, Cuomo and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The pick came after a week in which Kennedy surprisingly withdrew from consideration and Paterson revealed he was considering Cuomo, who had refused to publicly express his interest. In the end, Paterson chose the up-and-comer over more established names.

Gillibrand was an official in the Housing and Urban Development Department during the administration of former President Bill Clinton. She worked as a lawyer before challenging Republican John Sweeney in 2006 to represent New York‘s 20th District. Her upset win came after a police report showing that Sweeney’s wife had called 911 in what appeared to be a domestic violence incident was leaked shortly before the election.

In November, Gillibrand defeated wealthy General Electric heir Sandy Treadwell. The former state Republican chairman was seen as one of the GOP‘s best chances to capture a congressional seat in New York.

Gillibrand is considered one of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, a stance that reflects her largely rural district. She voted last year against the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill.

Gillibrand graduated from Dartmouth College in 1988 and earned a law degree at UCLA in 1991. She is the daughter of Albany lobbyist Douglas Rutnik.

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