Monday, November 21, 2005

Dems want seat in 20th district 11/21/05 By Tom Grace Cooperstown News Bureau Two Democrats are preparing to challenge incumbent 20th District Republican Rep. John Sweeney of Clifton Park in the 2006 election. One is 38-year-old lawyer Kirsten Gillibrand of Hudson, who served as special counsel to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo in the Clinton administration. The other is Morris Guller of Lexington, who ran against Sweeney in 2004. In that race, Guller’s petitions were successfully challenged, and he was not allowed on the ballot in the Democratic primary. In the general election, Guller ran as an independent and received 1,353 votes, compared to 188,953 for Sweeney, a three-term incumbent, and 96,630 for Doris Kelly, the Democratic candidate. According to Guller’s website,, this time will be different. "Running for Congress in ’04 and the lessons learned from that campaign are making this ’06 race a smoother and less chaotic experience," he stated on his website. "Having had the wonderful opportunity of meeting and speaking with many of you, I feel that I have developed a true understanding of the needs and concerns of my congressional district. ... "I will be an honest broker, a true representative of your needs and aspirations. I want, more than anything, to be your Congressman and to be indebted only to you for giving me the opportunity to represent you in Congress." Among Guller’s stated priorities is having the United States immediately withdraw troops from Iraq. Gillibrand has yet to announce her run for office but has assembled a staff and begun to raise campaign funds. She is a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner law firm in Albany and works on legal and policy-related issues. A statement issued by her staff says she "also understands the needs of those who have no voice, representing many pro-bono cases for those in need of first-rate legal representation. She has represented abused women and their children as well as tenants seeking safe housing after lead paint and unsafe conditions were found in their homes." Gwen Bellecourt, Gillibrand’s communications director, said the candidate will announce her intentions in January. According to the Center for Responsive Government, on the Internet at, she has collected $119,945 for the race. That compares to $677,455 for Sweeney. Guller’s 2006 figures were not listed on the website. Hank Nicols, chairman of Otsego County’s Democratic Party, said he was excited about Gillibrand’s candidacy. She will visit Otsego County next month, he said. Sweeney, 50, is seeking re-election, according to Melissa Carlson, his communications director. Sweeney was a strong supporter of the Iraqi war and he remains convinced the mission is worthwhile, Carlson said Friday. "The Congressman believes the best exit strategy from Iraq is to leave the country in a position to defend itself," she said. Sweeney, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, has done well by the district in his six years in Congress, she said, and recently he helped the State University College of Technology at Delhi secure a $750,000 grant for its Center of Excellence. The 20th Congressional District includes parts or all of 10 counties: Dutchess, Columbia, Greene, Otsego, Delaware, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, Washington and Essex. Tags: John Sweeney () Kirsten Gillibrand ( )


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