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OpinionColumnistsMike Vogel

Our first female president?

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, seen here on Jan.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, seen here on Jan. 23, 2014 in Bay Shore, proposes to more than double the Dependent and Child Care Tax Credit, raising its maximum deduction from 35 percent to 50 percent -- effectively boosting the amount from $1,050 per child to $3,000 per child. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

The odds are good that our first female president will be from New York, which makes Tina Rutnik happy.

Tina grew up in a small upstate community, her dad a prominent lobbyist for the Republican Party. She attended Dartmouth, majored in Asian studies, and lived in both Beijing and Taiwan.

Tina adopted a Chinese name: Lu Tian Na, and learned to speak Mandarin.

Upon returning to the states, she got a law degree, passed the bar, and became known for her tireless work as an attorney for the tobacco giant Philip Morris.

Now using her legal first name and husband's last name, Tina served as special counsel to HUD secretary Andrew Cuomo in the 1990s.

Tina worked for Hillary Clinton on her 2000 U.S. Senate race. When Clinton won, Tina returned to her law practice, then entered politics herself, running for Congress in 2006 in a conservative upstate district. She campaigned against amnesty for illegal immigrants and vowed to protect citizens' gun rights. Tina won 53 percent of the vote, then was easily re-elected.

Soon after, President-elect Barack Obama appointed Clinton as U.S. secretary of state. Many people believed Caroline Kennedy would be named to replace Clinton, but then-Gov. David Patterson named Tina to fill the post. In 2009, Tina was sworn in, becoming the youngest member of the Senate. Formerly known for her right/centrist views, Tina moved to the left, leading the effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Tina is now 47, married to a British national venture capitalist and has two young sons.

Tina, now known as Kirsten Gillibrand, recently lost a Senate battle on her proposal that would have taken away the power to oversee sexual assault/rape cases in the armed forces from military commanders.

But her efforts won the respect of numerous fellow Senators and enhanced her standing among women.

Many now see the Democratic presidential nomination of Clinton in 2016 as inevitable. But Americans have short attention spans and a history of preferring a fresh face over a too-familiar one (see Obama-Clinton, 2008).

So don't be shocked if the former Tina Rutnik, not Hillary, is elected the first female president of the United States.

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at


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