Candidate Profile from Congressional QuarterlyCharles E. Schumer (D) of Brooklyn
Challenger - Current House Member
If Senate Democrats opened a Hall of Fame, Schumer would likely be one of their first inductees. After years of trying to take out champion Republican pit bull Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, Democrats finally found a winner in Schumer.
Schumer not only raised the millions of dollars needed to defeat the well-financed chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, but he also was also willing to get down in the mud with D'Amato for an all-out street fight.
During his 18 years in the House, Schumer proved himself an aggressive partisan, opposing most Republican proposals including a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution and efforts to curb environmental regulations. Schumer was one of just 100 House members to vote against the welfare overhaul bill in 1996.
But Schumer's biggest opponent during his House career was the National Rifle Association (NRA). From his post on the Judiciary's Crime Subcommittee which he chaired at the time of the GOP takeover of the House in the 1994 election Schumer crafted the $30.2 billion anti-crime legislation that cleared in 1994 and was one of the most important laws of the 103rd Congress. The measure which expanded the use of the death penalty, mandated life imprisonment for those convicted of a third violent felony and funded new prison construction and police hirings was opposed by the NRA for its ban on 19 assault weapons.
A division of the NRA ran a full-page advertisement calling Schumer "the criminal's best friend." Schumer happily responded by saying, "I wear this like a badge of honor."
Although Schumer focused much of his House work on crime issues, he also was active on the Banking Committee, where he rose to be the fourth-ranking Democrat. In 1996, he helped sponsor legislation to strengthen and write into law current regulations that require automatic teller machine operators to display notices about fees that are charged to the users.
On other issues, Schumer has been an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, helping push through legislation providing federal protection for clinics that perform abortions.
Although well-known in New York City, in order to win his Senate seat Schumer had to make himself known for the first time to most voters in upstate New York.
A product of the Brooklyn public schools, Schumer is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. In 1974, at age 23, he was elected to the New York State Assembly from the Brooklyn area, becoming one of the youngest members to ever serve in that body. In 1980, at the age of 29, Schumer ran for Congress to replace Democrat Elizabeth Holtzman (1973-81), who left the House to challenge D'Amato for the Senate.