Clinton has challenger for N.Y. Senate seat

Republican plans to make campaign a national event

August 09, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK -- Encouraged by New York Republican leaders and some White House officials, Jeanine F. Pirro, the Westchester County district attorney, announced yesterday that she will challenge Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton next year. She immediately accused Clinton of using her post as a steppingstone to the presidency.

Pirro, a political moderate who supports abortion rights, gay rights and the death penalty, is seen by many Republicans in New York and Washington as their best hope of pulling off an upset in 2006 by ousting Clinton.

Republicans say Pirro's dogged style, sharp wit and telegenic presence will at least help them raise tens of millions of dollars and bruise Clinton in advance of her possible 2008 presidential run.

In an interview, Pirro said she would elevate the Senate race to a national political event. She criticized Clinton's rumored presidential ambitions as much as her Senate record for the past 4 1/2 years.

"Hillary Clinton is not running to serve the people of New York," Pirro said. "We are just a way station in her run for the presidency.

"I think voters will choose the only woman who really wants the job. My full time is a whole lot better than her part time."

The prospect of a sharp-elbowed, well-financed challenger such as Pirro, 54, is likely to intensify national interest in the New York Senate race, which is being closely watched by Republicans as a test of Clinton's views and skills.

Officials at the White House and the Republican National Committee have discussed the Senate contest with Pirro, and Ken Mehlman, the committee's chairman, congratulated Pirro on entering the race, Pirro and Mehlman said.

Pirro also spoke with state party leaders and decided to run after they said they would help her raise $30 million.

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