New York Times
November 8, 2000


H

Mrs. Clinton Defeats Lazio in New York Senate Race


By JULIAN E. BARNES

Hillary Rodham Clinton stepped from the White House to the United States Senate tonight, becoming the first presidential spouse to be elected to public office.

Mrs. Clinton defeated Representative Rick A. Lazio to succeed retiring Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat.

From the beginning of the race, Ms. Clinton's lack of roots in New York State became one of the major issues of the campaign. When Mr. Lazio entered the race in May, he immediately began emphasizing that he was a native New Yorker, while portraying Mrs. Clinton, an Illinois native and longtime Arkansas resident, as having moved to New York only to run for Senate.

Voters were evenly divided over whether Mrs. Clinton has lived in the state long enough to effectively represent New York in the Senate, according to interviews with voters today. Almost 9 in 10 voters who were not particularly concerned about this issue voted for Mrs. Clinton. But Mr. Lazio received support from about 8 in 10 of the voters who said they were concerned about how long Mrs. Clinton has lived in the state.

Vice President Al Gore easily outpaced Gov. George W. Bush of Texas with New York voters in the presidential race. Mrs. Clinton seemed to benefit from Mr. Gore's strength, but almost a fifth of Mr. Gore's voters said they split their vote to back Mr. Lazio.

Mrs. Clinton was backed by black, Hispanic and Jewish voters and those who identified themselves as union members, liberals and moderates. Women, particularly working women, supported Mrs. Clinton strongly. Mrs. Clinton was also backed by people who said their financial situation has improved over the last four years.

Mr. Lazio's support came largely from whites, men, and, to a lesser degree, independents, Catholics and conservatives.

Adam Nagourney, who has covered the Senate race for The New York Times, reported that Mr. Lazio's supporters seemed startled throughout the day by wave after wave of interviews with voters that signaled that their candidate might be heading for defeat.

The Republicans noted that Democrats hold a 2-million-vote edge in New York. Several of Mr. Lazio's associates also argued that the Suffolk County Republican was handicapped because he got into the race late, only after Mr. Giuliani dropped out because he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Mrs. Clinton appeared to be helped by the support that her husband, President Clinton, enjoys in New York. About two-thirds of the voters in New York State approve of the job President Clinton has been doing, and three-quarters of them voted for the First Lady.

While more than three-quarters of Mrs. Clinton's supporters were voting for her rather than against Mr. Lazio, more than 4 in 10 of Mr. Lazio's supporters were voting against Mrs. Clinton, according to interviews.

Mrs. Clinton was introduced to New York politics helping Charles E. Schumer defeat Senator Alfonse D'Amato in 1998. After her husband was impeached and then acquitted, Mrs. Clinton began considering making a run for the Senate in New York, becoming the first presidential spouse to enter electoral politics.

She began her run with an exploratory listening tour which took her around the state talking to hand-picked audiences. Early in her campaign Mrs. Clinton concentrated on the upstate region, building on a strategy pioneered by Mr. Schumer. Like Mr. Schumer, Mrs. Clinton made an effort to win a bigger percentage of the rural upstate vote than Democrats traditionally win.

The survey of voters leaving the polls on Election Day suggested that the strategy had paid off: Republicans needed to win the region by 10 points to counteract the Democratic edge in New York, and Mr. Lazio did not seem close to approaching that margin.

Mrs. Clinton crafted that strategy when she believed her opponent would be Mr. Giuliani, who enjoyed strong support in the city but was less well known upstate. Nevertheless, Mrs. Clinton's work upstate appeared to serve her well. Because of his late start in the race, Mr. Lazio had to scramble and was unable to match Mrs. Clinton's extensive visits upstate.

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