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Rep. Charles E. Schumer picked up some key support Friday in his bid for next year's Democratic Senate nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato with the backing of Assembly Majority Leader Michael J. Bragman, D-Cicero.

While the Brooklyn Democrat has received endorsements from many political figures, the Bragman endorsement represents important backing from the No. 2 figure in the Assembly and the body's top upstate representative. And since Schumer is still relatively unknown outside his downstate home base, the Bragman influence could prove important.

"The fact that he has come forward to endorse me shows I have a lot of strength upstate, and it shows his desire to unite behind a strong candidate," Schumer said in Buffalo Friday, hinting that as many as 50 other key figures will be lining up behind him in the next few weeks.

Bragman said he chose to come out for Schumer at this early date to help the congressman cement his upstate base in the face of a potential intra-party challenge from former Queens Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro and New York City Public Advocate Mark J. Green.

"I don't think we should wait for Geraldine Ferraro," Bragman said. "If her strategy is to come in late with negative campaigning, that's not what this is all about."

The majority leader's endorsement also is deemed important because of the influence he carries with Democratic assemblymen, many of whom often follow the Assembly leadership's lead on such matters. Those same assemblymen also have their own political organizations, which could prove important in organizing for a primary campaign.

Bragman said he sees Schumer as the best candidate to oppose D'Amato because his moderate reputation precludes being tagged "hopelessly liberal" as D'Amato has with other opponents in the past.

Schumer, meanwhile, continued his Buffalo efforts Friday with visits to key Democratic figures and an appearance with sheriff candidate Rocco J. Diina to bestow his endorsement.

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