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Sen. Gillibrand: Dems have good chance to keep congressional seat; paid leave would bring equality to workplace

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U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., expressed optimism about the Democratic Party’s prospects for keeping New York’s 21st Congressional District seat during a visit Thursday to Watertown.

“I think they’re great,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “We have some amazing candidates.”

She voiced support for staffer Jon K. Cardinal, an Ogdensburg native and director of economic development for the senator, and enthusiasm for M. Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, a venture capitalist and former congressman for New York’s 20th District.

The discussion came in the wake of the announcement by Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, that he would not be seeking re-election this year.

Sen. Gillibrand said she had not heard anything about Dierdre K. “Dede” Scozzafava, Mr. Owens’s one-time Republican opponent turned supporter, running as a Democrat.

Ms. Scozzafava is still a registered Republican in St. Lawrence County and there is no change of affiliation application in her file, according to St. Lawrence County Republican Election Commissioner Thomas A. Nichols.

Sen. Gillibrand said that voters in the north country do not care about political party as much as the character of individual candidates — who they are and what they stand for.

She said the names that have been put forward thus far belong to candidates who are “as independent as the north country itself.”

Sen. Gillibrand was at Jefferson Community College to announce the Family and Medical Insurance Leave, or “FAMILY,” Act — legislation she said would bring equality to the workplace by providing paid family and medical leave to American workers.

“More than 48 percent of the workforce are women,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “Neither the government nor employers have kept up with the pace or face of the workforce.”

The FAMILY Act would create an independent trust within the Social Security Administration that would be funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each — an expected cost comparable to a cup of coffee a week, according to a news release accompanying the announcement.

In the event of a family medical issue, employees would be able to take leave and receive benefits equal to 66 percent of their typical monthly wages up to a capped monthly amount, the news release said.

Sen. Gillibrand was joined in her announcement by Donna E. Seymour, public policy vice president of the American Association of University Women for New York state; JCC Student Government representative Alyssa F. McKenzie-Chery, and Susan Rice, who spoke of the negative effect costly family medical emergencies have had on her career.

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