One of this year's marquee races is the contest for one of New York's two U.S. Senate seats. That seat has been held by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the past six tumultuous years. She clearly deserves re-election.
Despite the national attention to her as a former first lady and potential future Democratic presidential candidate, and the stage the Senate provides for arguing issues of national scope, Clinton has been primarily an advocate for New York in everything from ensuring a prompt and substantial flow of assistance to New York City in the immediate aftermath of 9/1 1 to playing a major role in fending off efforts to close the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in more recent days. It is her attention to New York detail that earns her The Buffalo News endorsement in this election.
Her Republican opponent, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, describes himself as a "common-sense conservative" but trails badly in this race because his campaign was hurt by GOP primary election disarray and because his issues have failed to gain traction. A blue-collar conservative who would remind local voters of former Mayor Jimmy Griffin, he argues that he is more experienced than Clinton, and that she is too partisan and has failed to deliver on a promise to create 200,000 jobs. He's also a former Vietnam veteran, an infantry lieutenant who contends that it is improper to criticize the government or its leaders in time of war, period.
Clinton's issues campaign is both wider and deeper than Spencer's. Although a former mayor can be expected to grasp the immensity of New York's governmental problems, Spencer offers far less in terms of policy than he offers in Clinton criticism. He has little financial support from his own Republican Party, a clear signal that party powers see little chance of winning.
Clinton is running on issues and on her record -- which, of course, does not include the 200,000 jobs she promised in the 2000 campaign. A stagnant regional economy, hampered by state-level policies, proved too tough for that challenge, but Clinton has been a key player in keeping jobs -- as in the air base effort -- and in assisting the longer-term strategic initiatives for economic restoration, notably in federal financial support for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, in securing critical funding for the Artspace lofts and studio project to boost Buffalo's creative class and in holding four upstate meetings, each focusing on a different industry, to help match venture capital to promising companies.
New York's junior senator also has shown both the willingness and the ability to work across the aisle on bipartisan initiatives. For this area, that paid off in powerful partnerships with Republican Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds in saving the air base and in backing the medical campus. Clinton also has focused attention on Western New York agriculture, including an effort to boost emerging Niagara Escarpment wineries that mirror successful viticulture on the Canadian side of the border.
Clinton has been a lightning rod for criticism by conservatives on social issues. But her public positions now are sounding more centrist -- in recent months she has stressed an ideology-spanning effort to reduce the need for abortions, for example -- and, while most conservatives see that as politically expedient, it remains an effort to find common ground on contentious issues. Western New Yorkers, like everyone else, will wonder whether Clinton will seek the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2008. But in 2006, this Senate race is an uneven match and The Buffalo News strongly recommends returning Clinton to that office.
Endorsements by The News editorial board are intended to aid voters in their own evaluations of those seeking office. Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, we urge you to vote and take part in our democratic process.