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Pelosi Feud Dims Gillibrand's Senate Hopes

Nancy Pelosi is no fan of Upstate New York Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand -- and the speaker’s barely-concealed coolness to the House sophomore is a factor pushing Gillibrand back in the pack in the race to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to New York Democrats.

People familiar with the situation say Pelosi hasn’t tried to actively scotch Gillibrand’s candidacy -- but she’s made no secret she thinks the 42-year-old up-and-comer has been too aggressive about climbing the House leadership ladder.

Gov. David Paterson, who will tap Clinton’s replacement later this month, is well aware of Pelosi’s feelings and isn't eager to alienate the powerful speaker at a time when the state is asking for billions in federal aid, sources say. That said, he hasn't ruled anyone out.

“Nancy doesn’t like her, and that certainly can’t help Kirsten [in the Senate scramble],” said one New York Democrat with knowledge of the situation. “There’s real tension between the two when they are both in the same room. You can feel it.”

Gillibrand, a powerhouse fundraiser who unseated Republican John Sweeney in 2006, easily won re-election last year to her right-tilting district last year by embracing gun rights and fiscal frugality. Both Clinton and the state’s senior senator, Charles Schumer, think highly of Gillibrand -- though they deny reports that they pushed her for the job.

She fits two of the main criteria for the Senate pick: She's a woman and she's from upstate, a region Paterson needs to win re-election.

Gillibrand’s big downside: If she was tapped, her seat would likely revert to GOP control.

Pelosi and Gillibrand have never enjoyed good personal chemistry -- and the speaker was less than thrilled Gillibrand bucked leadership by voted against the $700 billion bank bailout.

But the real trouble began, sources say, when Gillibrand met with Pelosi late last year in an attempt to take a House Ways and Means slot vacated by a retiring upstate Democrat.

Pelosi, a stickler for protocol and dues-paying, “brushed her back,” a Congressional aide says. And the speaker became more ticked off when she learned that Gillibrand had been discussing the appointment with other members of the state delegation.

“The feeling was that Kirsten was going behind her back,” said one House member -- an assertion Gillibrand allies vehemently deny.

Pelosi eventually appointed Buffalo Rep. Brian Higgins, who had more seniority, for the vacancy on the recommendation of the state’s dean, Ways and Means chairman Charlie Rangel – one of Paterson’s political mentors.