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Sen. Charles Schumer has been a clear favorite in this year's U.S. Senate race for a good reason: He has delivered for this state and for Western New York. He deserves the chance to do that for another term.

Republican challenger Howard Mills III, who describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially tolerant, is overmatched in this contest.

More than any Senator in recent years, Schumer embraced the truth that he had to focus on upstate as a candidate and as a senator. Many of his upstate visits -- made far more frequently than any other senator in recent years -- came complete with funding or program announcements.

Schumer is an indefatigable political worker who has addressed an unusually wide range of issues: college tuition credits, spotty cell phone coverage, the health of former nuclear materials workers, West Valley nuclear storage, Niagara Falls air base funding, insurance fraud, keeping federal agency workers downtown, generic drugs to lower prescription costs, dairy price supports and halting the spread of street gangs and drugs.

Perhaps his major achievement -- one that would earn him a return trip to Washington in and of itself -- was his successful efforts in helping to lower air fares in this region. He played a crucial role in bringing JetBlue to Buffalo by working tirelessly to secure coveted takeoff and landing slots at Kennedy Airport for the low-cost airline.

More recently, he has played a critical role in pushing the American and Canadian governments to undertake binational efforts to find ways to ease border congestion, an important part of the Peace Bridge expansion project.

Schumer also helped land $5 million in bioinformatics center funding and another $5 million for waterfront and harbor infrastructure improvements, and smaller grants that helped open a new rape victims center at Erie County Medical Center. He also has teamed effectively with Sen. Hillary Clinton to push for homeland security funding, although their early post- 9/1 1 success was eroded by national political wrangling and a subsequent distribution formula that gives New York a lower per-capita grant than Idaho.

In national matters, Schumer has become a prominent Democratic Party official, one who backs the war on terror but has become critical of the way it is being waged. He also wants America to get tougher with the Saudis, especially for their funding of extremist organizations and schools. Domestically, he has led the fight against the administration's efforts to put far-right judges on the federal bench.

Mills has mounted an articulate campaign, which required him to leave his post as deputy minority leader in the Assembly. Granted, it was a post with little real power in a Democratic stronghold, but he did give up virtually unassailable job security. He took up the challenge only after other potential candidates, including Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, decided not to fight the odds.

Mills is an Orange County Republican who backs Bush's tax cuts and the war in Iraq, and says Saddam Hussein needed to be removed even if he didn't have weapons of mass destruction. He believes Saddam, even armed with only conventional weapons, was a threat to America. Despite Mills' conservative leanings in most areas, he is strongly pro-choice.

He has taken the fight directly to Schumer by focusing his campaign on the senator's record. Mills argues that he can be a much more effective senator. To the extent that even a junior Republican would have an easier time passing bills if the Republicans maintain control of Congress, that claim has some truth. For example, Mills points out that Schumer won passage of only 13 of his 163 bills. He also criticizes Schumer for not fighting harder to stop erosion of New York's percentage share of federal transportation spending.

For his own part, Mills has energy plans that focus on alternative fuel development and tort reform plans that target frivolous lawsuits and cap some types of awards. The centerpiece of his campaign is a $36 billion middle-class tax cut plan that would be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes, cutting back pork barrel projects and reducing spending, except for education, defense, Social Security and Medicare.

Schumer has established a strong record during his first term. He has delivered on practical projects and upstate priorities. We enthusiastically endorse him.

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