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Hillary Rodham Clinton scores historic win in New York

hillary clinton
Hillary Clinton  
  WEB EXCLUSIVE
CNN's
Frank Buckley on Hillary Rodham Clinton's victory

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first sitting first lady to win an elected office when she beat Republican Rep. Rick Lazio in her New York bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate,.

Clinton said the race was decided by voters who cast ballots over issues such as jobs, health care, education, Social Security and abortion rights.

She acknowledged it was a hard fought race, but promised to reach across party lines "to bring progress to all of New York families."

"Today we voted as Democrats and Republicans. Tomorrow, we begin again as New Yorkers," she told supporters.

Clinton thanked everyone who spent time or talked with her during the campaign, telling them, "You taught me, you tested me and you shared with me your challenges and your concerns."

She also thanked outgoing Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan for his half century of service to New York and the country.

Earlier, President Clinton had said he would help his wife her write her acceptance speech.

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CNN's Frank Buckley on Hillary Clinton's victory (November 8)

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"I'm the first president in history with a wife in the Senate, and I like it," he said.

Just before Hillary Clinton spoke, Lazio told his supporters, "I feel like the Mets. We came in second."

He told his supporters to stop booing after he mentioned Clinton's name, telling them, "She has won this race and it's time for us to march together forward."

This was one of the most-watched and expensive Senate races. By mid-October, Democrat Clinton, Republican Lazio and one-time candidate New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had spent $78 million.

The seat became available when Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan decided not to seek re-election after 24 years in the Senate.

The race was expected to be settled not in Manhattan but in the rolling hills of upstate New York, where 45 percent of New Yorker voters live.

Lazio jumped into the race mid-stream when Giuliani bowed out, announcing he had prostate cancer.

The former prosecutor and four-term Long Island member of Congress presented himself as the only "native" New Yorker in the race and a moderate in touch with "mainstream New York."

He also pushed his plan to lower federal income tax rates, make Social Security taxes deductible from federal returns, and eliminate the estate tax and the so-called marriage penalty tax.

He also did his best to paint his opponent as a liberal "carpetbagger" and said she had left behind a poor record on education in Arkansas, even though it was Bill Clinton and not Hillary Clinton who held the office of governor.

Clinton campaigned using a variation of her husband's 1992 campaign mantra, "It's the economy, stupid."

Clinton reached out to upstate voters, vowing to improve the economic picture there. She said her plan would yield 200,000 New York jobs over six years.

It included specific tax credits to encourage business investment, especially in the high-tech sector, and to reward job creation. She also called for targeted personal tax cuts, such as for college tuition and long-term care.

While Clinton stood on solid ground in New York City, she repeatedly visited the suburbs, campaigning intensively on issues that appeal to voters there such as education, health care and the environment.

In her last full month of campaigning, Clinton aired a television spot chastising Lazio for "sneaking out of Washington so he could campaign back home." Clinton also noted that Lazio "skipped 59 0f 60 votes in Congress."

This was the first time a first lady ran for a political office. President Bill Clinton campaigned on his wife's behalf.

The president, first lady and daughter Chelsea voted in Chappaqua, New York, the community where they bought a home.

One of Lazio's weaknesses appeared to be his youthful appearance and questions about whether he had the experience or stature to be effective in the Senate. He was also widely thought to have hurt his chances when, in the first debate, he walked over to Clinton shaking papers in her face while challenging her on campaign finance reform.



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