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Debate heats up fiery Senate racein New York (10-25-98)

CQ Profile: Alfonse D'Amato

CQ Profile: Charles E. Schumer

AllPolitics' Election '98: New York


D'Amato '98 Web site

Rep. Charles Schumer's Web site


Post your opinions on the November races

New York Senate race an old-fashioned street fight

By Gene Randall/CNN

NEW YORK (October 30) -- With just days before the election, Republican Sen. Al D'Amato of New York is looking for coattails, barnstorming the state with GOP Gov. George Pataki, who is expected to easily win re-election.

But Democratic Rep. Charles Schumer is giving D'Amato a very tough contest. And polls have begun to show Schumer opening up a slight lead, bad news for a three-term incumbent senator.

Sen. Al D'Amato  

"He fights, he fights hard and he fights dirty," says Ester Fuchs of Columbia University. "And this is the first time that he is getting a candidate who's willing really to give as good as he gets in this race."

There is some talk about the issues. Schumer was endorsed by gun control activist James Brady for his leadership on the Brady Bill. D'Amato trumpets his ability to steer federal funds, including hundreds of millions of dollars for breast cancer research. A critical issue on the heavily populated Long Island, where breast cancer rates are very high.

Schumer favors abortion rights, while D'Amato would allow abortion, only in very limited circumstances. But this has mainly been a campaign of personal insult. D'Amato called Schumer a "putz-head," a yiddish expression many consider vulgar.

"A term of foolishness, a term of a man who was there, laughing and ridiculing my work, missing votes, not being there, not fighting for the state," D'Amato explains.

"His campaign put out a statement saying he didn't do it. And only after it became clear that he said it, that he fessed up," Schumer responds.

Each man says the other is out of touch with the voters. Schumer says D'Amato is embarrassment to the state. D'Amato paints Schumer as an absentee congressman.

"You don't miss 90 percent of your Judiciary Committee meetings as he has, over 200 votes and say, 'well it wasn't important,'" D'Amato complains.

"I missed a lot of votes in the Banking Committee, and yet I was more effective than he was," Schumer says.

The TV airwaves have been filled with attack ads.

"D'Amato, too many lies for too long," a Schumer ad touts.

"Liberal Chuck Schumer, wrong on taxes, wrong on welfare, wrong on crime, wrong for us," a D'Amato ad claims.

D'Amato is a key Democratic target this year. Remember his Senate Whitewater hearings? And there has been strong White House help for Schumer who says he would vote against any impeachment of the president.

D'Amato has the support of New York's Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch.

Rep. Charles Schumer  

Hammering away at Schumer's attendance record in Congress, D'Amato faces charges he missed hundreds of votes as county supervisor when he ran for the Senate back in the 1980s. D'Amato fires back, urging voters to look at Schumer's first run for Congress in 1980 which ended in a federal probe of mail fraud charges.

"They were completely investigated and they were dropped. Al D'Amato, on the other hand, has a 30-year pattern of ethical transgressions," Schumer explains.

But as is typical in this race D'Amato hits back.

"And if you take a look at it, it's rather obvious that Mr. Trust doesn't look so good," D'Amato says.

Turnout could tell the story on Tuesday. Schumer would need a strong showing in New York City, with a heavy Jewish vote. D'Amato's "putz-head" comment has alienated some Jewish voters who have supported him in the past in large numbers. And now D'Amato is trying to energize his voters base upstate.

President Bill Clinton does a fund-raiser for Schumer in Brooklyn, Friday. Meanwhile, though polls suggest voters don't like the negative campaigning neither side gives any stage it's about to change its style -- what style?


Friday, October 30, 1998

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