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Pirro predicts victory in state race

The last time Jeanine F. Pirro visited Buffalo, she was a candidate for U.S. Senate saddled with all the problems of a campaign in trouble.

But her visit here Monday was for a new office and was marked by a new outlook. Now the apparent Republican nominee for state attorney general, Pirro is relying on all the themes that won her three terms as Westchester County district attorney and makes a promise most thought she couldn't keep in a potential matchup against Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I'm going to win this thing," she said Monday in an interview with The Buffalo News.

Pirro has never been one to lack confidence. But polls show she's in the hunt against a bevy of potential Democratic opponents this year, and she ticks off a list of crime-fighting objectives she says will make her a winner -- because she's won on them before.

Medicaid fraud, civil confinement for sexual predators and ensuring that local child protective service workers do their jobs are all issues that she knows and wants to highlight as attorney general. After a disastrous Senate effort that never caught on, she now feels supercharged for a campaign on more familiar turf.

"I'm myself," she said Monday. "This is perfectly suited to who I am and how I've been preparing for 30 years."

Pirro was in town to attend a local fund-raising event and reconnect with party leaders after committing to the attorney general race late last year. Part of that effort is to begin conveying a record that saw her expand prosecutorial efforts against pedophiles, prosecute more than 200 corrupt officials and crack down on polluters.

"This is going so well because my experience and background fit this job so well as chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the State of New York," she said.

While many candidates for attorney general peg curbing Medicaid fraud as a top priority, Pirro says she is already familiar with the software that can easily pinpoint offenders. She said she would not "be critical" of any current lack of Medicaid prosecution but referred to New York Times articles exposing widespread Medicaid fraud.

Pirro said she much prefers the State Senate version of a bill mandating civil confinement of habitual sex offenders, in which a jury decides if such measures are warranted. She pointed to one case she prosecuted in Westchester that she said cried out for such new protections.

"[The suspect] was a ticking time bomb who should not have been out," she said. "We are failing in our most fundamental requirement -- protection of women and children in our society."

Pirro also promises to monitor more closely child protective services on a statewide basis, to "go up one side and down the other" of unscrupulous nursing home operators and crack down on human trafficking of immigrants who become, in effect, sex slaves.

She said she is not yet fully informed on the issues surrounding collection of cigarette taxes on Western New York Indian reservations but promised to address the topic during future campaign stops.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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