February 7, 2000
Mrs. Clinton Starts Upstate Swing
BY MARC HUMBERT
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) --Promising backers hard work and fun, Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked off her first swing through upstate New York today as an official candidate for U.S. Senate.
The first lady was greeted by about three dozen supporters this morning at a charter airstrip outside the city where she later planned to address job growth and economic issues.
``We have a lot of work to do, but it will be fun,'' Clinton told one supporter as she autographed campaign signs.
A group of Republican officials were trying to blunt her momentum with their own news conferences in five cities, accusing her of spending $900,000 in federal funds on campaign trips. Clinton has reported reimbursing $34,000.
Because she is the first lady, Clinton travels with White House security. The repayments are based on the price of first-class travel and are not intended to cover the full cost of security for the first lady, a Clinton spokesman said Sunday.
At her formal announcement Sunday in Purchase, the first lady urged New Yorkers on Sunday to look past her lack of local roots, get to know her better and see if her positions and attitudes don't square with theirs.
``I'll be on your side,'' she said repeatedly as she launched the first candidacy for public office by a first lady. ``I'll fight my heart out for you.''
Clinton has been campaigning for seven months. If she wins the anticipated race against New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, she would be the first woman independently elected to statewide office in New York.
Giuliani, meanwhile, found time Sunday to appear on all five morning talk shows, discussing the race in depth but not officially declaring his own candidacy.
Clinton took the stage in the Purchase College gymnasium with President Clinton, their daughter, Chelsea, and Mrs. Clinton's mother, Dorothy Rodham. Mrs. Clinton's spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said the president ``has given advice and counsel as any husband would.''
But he didn't speak to the crowd Sunday, choosing instead to yield the spotlight wholly to his wife.
Before the first lady spoke, she was effusively praised by Democratic politicians who have just the New York experience she lacks: Reps. Nita Lowey and Charles Rangel and Sens. Charles Schumer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who is retiring.
Rangel, the longtime representative from Harlem, said that when a candidate like Clinton comes along, ``You don't ask where they come from. You ask are they available to serve.''
They praised her dedication and accomplishments in such areas as gun control, children's health care and the environment, all issues Clinton the candidate promised would continue to be high on her agenda.
A video tribute was screened, too, starting with Clinton's baby pictures and including tributes from old friends emphasizing her dedication to women and children's issues and her love for her daughter and mother.
``This is the start of an effort to tell all New Yorkers what Hillary is really like,'' Wolfson said.
When Clinton took the podium, hundreds of foot-stomping, placard-waving college students chanted, ``Hil-la-ry! Hil-la-ry!'' There were more than 2,000 people in the gym and about 20,000 more watched at house parties around the state.
``I am honored today to announce my candidacy for the U.S. Senate from New York,'' she said.
Clinton said the carpetbagging issue -- she has lived in New York only a month -- was ``a fair question.''
``I may be new to your neighborhood, but I'm not new to your concerns,'' she countered.
She did not mention Giuliani by name but was clearly referring to the combative mayor when she criticized ``the divisive politics of revenge and retribution.''
Earlier Sunday, Giuliani played up his New York roots while making the rounds of the political talk shows.
``My record of success comes out of my knowledge, experience, background and life experience as a lifetime resident of the state,'' he said on CBS' ``Face the Nation.'' ``How is it that the Democratic Party can't come up with a candidate for the Senate from the state of New York?''
The race in New York is expected to be the most expensive Senate race in the nation's history and has already polarized many voters.
A new poll released Sunday found Clinton and Giuliani in a statistical dead heat, but with a majority expecting Giuliani to eventually win.
The survey by the Quinnipiac College Polling Institute shows Giuliani with a 45 to 42 percent lead over Clinton, but the difference disappears once the 3-point margin of error is figured in. Ten percent of the 1,072 registered voters surveyed by phone from Feb. 2 to 5 were undecided.
Fully half of those polled -- including some Clinton supporters -- expect the mayor to win. Only 31 percent expect Clinton to win.
The numbers didn't daunt her, though.
``I know it's not always going to be an easy campaign,'' Clinton told cheering supporters as she closed her announcement speech with a touch of affected city accent in her voice.
``But hey! This is New York!''
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