Friday, October 27, 2006

The Bill Clinton Rally for Gillibrand

Clinton rallies the faithful: Former president brings star power to Gillibrand campaign

Published on 10/27/2006 in the Post Star

COLONIE * The roar inside the Million Air private maintenance hangar at Albany International Airport on Thursday wasn't coming from a 747.

It was the sound of star power, as former President Bill Clinton whipped up enthusiasm to carry supporters of Democratic congressional candidate Kirsten Gillibrand through the last 12 days of her campaign.

"Here's what I want to say to you: Don't give up on anybody." Clinton told the crowd, ... "Don't even give up on Republicans who say they've never voted for a Democrat before." ...

"Frankly, I was sent here," he said, going on to explain Thursday was his wife's birthday.

"I said, 'What do you want me to do on your birthday?' " to which the ex-president said the senator answered, "'Well, I want you to go to upstate New York and help out Kirsten Gillibrand. And while you're up there, try to get me a few votes if you can.'"

From Albany, Clinton was scheduled to fly on to rallies in Syracuse and Long Island before attending his wife's 59th birthday party in Manhattan on Thursday evening. ...

Gillibrand is hoping votes from independents and some Republicans will put her over the top.

"This election is about so much more than Republicans or Democrats," she told the crowd. "It's about the direction our country is going." ...

"People are tired, but you can't get tired now," said Washington County Democratic Chairwoman Sheila Comar.

"Having Clinton come -- it says, 'She can win,' " said Sarah Hussa, a campaign volunteer from Queensbury.

Several area politicians got a morale boost by appearing on the same stage as Clinton.

Some 20 elected officials, labor leaders and activists spoke in a nearly two-hour stretch reminiscent of testimony time at an Evangelical revival meeting.

Organizers attempted to time the flow of speeches to coincide with the arrival of Clinton and U.S Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., who got in on separate flights.

"First he was behind, and they said, 'Can you talk longer?' " said Timothy Merrick, Democratic candidate for state Senate. "Then they said, 'Can you talk shorter?' "

Merrick, who is running against state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, said he met Clinton briefly backstage and they shook hands.

"He said, 'It's good to meet you,' " Merrick said.

Hudson Falls Mayor and state Assembly candidate David Carter and Saratoga Democratic Chairman Larry Bulman also spoke.

Bulman spoke in his role as secretary/treasurer and state political director of the New York State Pipe Trades union.

Clinton said he wanted to hold the event at Saratoga County Airport, but it was unclear if the weather would allow landing of his plane there.

"I hope I can come back to Saratoga," he said.

Bulman said he and the former president spoke backstage and Clinton asked for his business card.

Clinton said he wanted to go to Saratoga to play golf and watch horse racing, Bulman said.

In his speech, Clinton said his mother, a big horse-racing fan, wanted to come to Saratoga when she had cancer.

"One of the things she most wanted to do while she was still on the face of the Earth was to go to Saratoga and see the races, and she got it done," he said.

In closing, Clinton said volunteering on political campaigns can be daunting.

"This is scary for some of you folks," [actually, he was talking about die-hard Republicans who are planning to vote Democratic this time, not the Democrats in the room, when he said that - LM] he said. "It's like the first time you ever jumped off a diving board."

Clinton urged volunteers to be vigilant in getting voters to the polls.

"You've got to go grab them by the hand and look them in the eye and tell them what kind of person she (Gillibrand) is. Tell them what kind of America you want to build, and jump off that diving board with them."

Staff writer Charles Fiegl contributed to this report.

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