Gillibrand Campaign Coverage
8/2/06 - The Adirondack Daily Enterprise
By LEE MANCHESTER, Lake Placid News
SARANAC LAKE — Kirsten Gillibrand has been pegged as the first Democrat in eight years with a serious chance of beating Republican incumbent John Sweeney in New York’s 20th Congressional district this November.
This week, Essex County voters are getting their first opportunity to meet the candidate. Her campaign staff has lined up events for every day of the week: Sunday, the county fair; Monday, a meet ’n’ greet at Mr. Mike’s Pizza Restaurant; Tuesday, a visit to the Border Patrol checkpoint at the 100-mile mark on Interstate 87 in North Hudson.
Yesterday afternoon, Gillibrand met with an ostensibly nonpartisan but left-leaning activist group, Voters For Change, in the North Elba Town House in Saranac Lake — just about as far north as you can go and still be in the 20th district.
“She’s a very fine candidate,” the event’s moderator told the audience of about two dozen, “and the Democrats have to win the House of Representatives, and Kirsten is our contribution to that.”
Gillibrand, 39, lives in Hudson, in Columbia County, 38 miles south of Albany. A Dartmouth and UCLA Law School grad, she is a partner in the law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner. During the Clinton administration, Gillibrand served as special counsel to HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who’s now running to become New York’s next attorney general.
Gillibrand will face a four-term incumbent in November who wants to make it an even five.
When Sweeney first ran for Congress in 1998, he had already established his political bona fides, serving a three-year stint as New York state GOP executive director and another year as Gov. George Pataki’s deputy secretary.
That year, the Democrat he faced was Red Hook Councilwoman Jean Bordewich. She was leading the race in a Labor Day poll, but the Democratic Party withheld the big money she needed to maintain her momentum through the November general election. Sweeney ended up winning, 55 percent to 42.
Since that first election for the Congressional seat left open by Gerry Solomon’s retirement, Sweeney has handily disposed of the other three Democrats who’ve stood up to contest his re-election campaigns, twice by a two-to-one margin, once by three to one.
None of Sweeney’s Democratic opponents got a dime from either the state or national Democratic campaign operations.
This year, however, Sweeney’s seat appears to be in play, and the Democrats have quickly moved to back their new, credible candidate in a big way. The Gillibrand campaign is being funded by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the legendary Emily’s List has thrown open its mailing list to her, sending campaign solicitations to proven donors on her behalf.
Sweeney appears to recognize that he’s in for a fight.
In an extended article on John McCain’s presidential campaign, published in this month’s Esquire magazine, McCain is greeted by Sweeney at a stop in New York. McCain asks the congressman for his assessment of the prospects for one Republican House member after another. Sweeney “answers with doom,” according to Esquire.
“I think the whole state’s in play,” Sweeney reportedly told McCain.
“There are a lot of reasons,” Gillibrand told the Lake Placid News Monday morning. “The people who live in this district are very independent-minded, no matter whether they are Republicans or Democrats or Independence Party members or voters without party affiliation.
“A lot of Republicans from my mother and my father’s generation call themselves Rockefeller Republicans. They are fiscal conservatives, social progressives, and often environmentalists and conservationists. As a consequence, they don’t agree with the Bush administration — because those are three things the Bush administration is not.
“Those Republicans have been voting for Democrats the last two or three electoral cycles. When (U.S. Sen.) Chuck Schumer ran the first time, he got 41 percent of the vote in this Congressional district. The second time he ran, he received 57 percent of the vote,” Gillibrand said. “Republicans were willing to vote for a Democrat because they liked him and they thought he shared their priorities.”
Gillibrand also said that four counties in the district had seen shifts on town, village or city boards in the last election from Republican to Democratic control.
“There’s a sense that things aren’t getting better, and the leadership at not only the state but the national level has been almost completely Republican,” Gillibrand said. “Gas prices are going up; health care costs are going up; tax cuts have not been for the middle class, but for the super-wealthy.
“They’re not seeing the return on the investment of voting for these candidates, and they’re deciding to vote for Democrats.”
Gillibrand will be in Essex County through the end of the week, making the following appearances:
¯This morning at the I-87 Border Patrol checkpoint
¯Wednesday, 10 a.m. to noon, at the Farmers Market behind the Lake Placid Center for the Arts
¯Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to noon, at “Coffee With Eliot” at the Crowne Plaza Lake Placid Resort, which will also offer participants a chance to talk with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer
¯Friday, 7 to 9 p.m., at a community forum in the Ticonderoga Community Building.
Thursday’s “Coffee With Eliot” is a fundraising event for the Essex County Democratic Committee. To make a reservation for this $25-ticket event, call Essex County Democratic Chairwoman Sue Montgomery Corey at 251-2525.
A call to the phone number on Sweeney’s campaign Web site was not returned.