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Election 2018 Senate New York Gillibrand

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2018 file photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks during the New York Senate debate hosted by WABC-TV, in New York. Gillibrand's Republican challenger is Chele Farley. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool, File)

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has fought to preserve health benefits for 9/11 first responders and established herself as one of the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump, is the latest Democrat to enter the 2020 presidential race. 

During an appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" Tuesday, Gillibrand announced that she is forming an exploratory committee — a necessary step before candidates formally launch presidential campaigns. 

In a clip tweeted by "The Late Show," the New Yorker explained to Colbert why she decided to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

"I'm going to run for president of the United States because as a young mom, I'm going to fight for other people's kids as hard as I would fight for my own," she said. 

Gillibrand, 52, joins what is expected to be a crowded field for the Democratic presidential nomination. In the past week, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, of Hawaii, and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro launched presidential bids. Some of Gillibrand's Senate colleagues are considering runs, including U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. 

An Albany-area native, Gillibrand was an attorney before running for Congress in 2006. She was elected to the House and held more conservative positions on some issues than she does now. She once had a 100 percent rating from the National Rifle Association, a top gun rights group. 

She was re-elected to the House in 2008. In early 2009, she was appointed to succeed Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate. Clinton left the Senate to become secretary of state. 

As a senator, Gillibrand led the push to end the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy targeting LGBT service members in the military. She also spearheaded efforts to preserve health benefits for 9/11 first responders and has been a leading voice in combating sexual assault on college campuses and in the military. 

She partnered with other members of Congress, including the late U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, to advocate for passage of the STOCK Act. The legislation, which was signed by then-President Barack Obama, which prohibits members of Congress from insider trading. And while it hasn't advanced in either house, she has been the longtime sponsor of legislation to establish a national paid family leave program. 

At the time of her appointment, Gillibrand was the first New Yorker in more than four decades to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee. She remains a member of the committee, and also serves on the Senate Armed Services and Environment and Public Works committees. 

Since Trump was sworn in as president in 2017, Gillibrand has been of his leading critics. She opposed many of Trump's Cabinet selections early in his presidency and slammed his administration for "inhumane" immigration policies after visiting a detention facility along the southern border. Her stances led to speculation that she may run for president in 2020. 

During her Senate reelection campaign last year, Gillibrand pledged to serve a full six-year term as senator when asked about the possibility of running for president. In just a few months, her public position has changed. 

Over the past week, media reports indicated that Gillibrand hired staffers and selected a site in Troy for her presidential campaign headquarters. And then came her announcement on a national late-night talk show that she's forming an exploratory committee to run for president. 

Gillibrand addressed some issues. She said health care is a right, not a privilege. She has long supported Medicare-for-all, which would establish a national single-payer health insurance program. She also called for better public schools and support for job training opportunities. 

"You are never going to accomplish any of these things if you don't take on the systems of power that make all of that impossible, which is taking on institutional racism, it's taking on the corruption and greed in Washington, taking on the special interests that write legislation in the dead of night," Gillibrand said. "And I know that I have the compassion, the courage and the fearless determination to get that done." 

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