Debate heats up fiery Senate race in New York
NEW YORK (AllPolitics, October 25) -- In the hotly contested Senate race here, incumbent Alfonse D'Amato tore into his Democratic challenger Charles Schumer on Saturday in their first direct debate by branding him a diehard liberal.
Schumer fired back and accused D'Amato of being a liar, saying the upcoming election would ultimately be a vote of "trust."
The two men pulled no punches in the debate, which came during one of the most expensive and combative -- and closest -- races ahead of the November 3 mid-term elections.
D'Amato, who is seeking a fourth term, used the occasion to attack his opponent's attendance record as a member of Congress.
"If most people missed as much work as you do, they'd be out, they wouldn't be looking for a promotion," the Republican senator said.
Schumer in turn repeatedly went back to his chief charge against D'Amato: that the senator is a liar.
"This election may come down to one word. ... The word is 'trust,'" Schumer said.
Schumer also maintained that after D'Amato used a "slur" Tuesday to describe him, the senator initially denied saying it, and only later changed his mind and decided to confess.
"Over and over and over again, Senator D'Amato has embarrassed us," Schumer said.
"I used a common New York expression that means you're foolish," D'Amato responded.
The exchange was in reference to an incident in which D'Amato called Schumer a "putzhead" during a meeting with the senator's Jewish supporters.
"Putz" is Yiddish for penis and is used to deride someone as a fool. D'Amato is Roman Catholic. Schumer is Jewish.
The exchange was indicative of how acrimonious the campaign has become. Schumer has repeatedly called D'Amato a liar, and has also called him "sleazy" and a "bully."
D'Amato has denounced the Brooklyn congressman as a "New York City liberal" who has missed more than 100 House votes this year.
Before the televised debate started, the candidates had to be coaxed into shaking hands for the benefit of photographers.
The candidates' only other debate was scheduled for Sunday in New York City.
Sunday, October 25, 1998