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Trying to turn upstate map blue Clinton campaigns hard for House hopefuls in bid for Democratic dominance in region

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton stood on a stage in Rochester on Wednesday with a woman and two men who want to join her in Congress -- and turn most of upstate New York's congressional map blue.

If Democrats Alice J. Kryzan, Eric J.J. Massa and Dan Maffei win Tuesday, upstate New York would be left with just one Republican member of Congress: Rep. John M. McHugh of Watertown. Overall, it's possible that Democrats could outnumber Republicans in the state delegation by a whopping 27-2.

That's quite a contrast with 2002, when New York elected 10 GOP members of Congress, and 1994, when 14 New York Republicans won seats in Congress.

According to Charles Cook, one of Washington's most respected political prognosticators, a Democratic sweep of the westernmost congressional seats in New York State is certainly possible.

"In this political and economic climate, no district in Western New York can be considered safe for Republicans," Cook wrote earlier week.

Clinton did all she could Wednesday to make the climate even worse for Republicans, appearing at a Buffalo rally in Ellicott Square to back Kryzan and other local candidates and then heading to Rochester for a rally with Kryzan, Massa and Maffei.

"We face some tough times. We live in the midst of a financial crisis born and bred in Republican fiscal policies," she said in Buffalo. "And if you compare this Bush administration with the Clinton administration, you know we need to elect Democrats from the top of the ticket all the way down."

Pressed, in Rochester, on whether it's good for Democrats to be as dominant as they are likely to be in the New York congressional delegation next year, Clinton posed a question.

"Well, I want you to ask yourself: What have we gotten for the Republican rule in the White House and the Congress except a lot of problems?" she said. "I think it's going to take different leadership, . . . and I don't see that happening from the other side of the aisle. I just see more of the same."

One of the most endangered Republicans in the country -- Rep. John R. "Randy" Kuhl Jr. of Hammondsport, who represents Cattaraugus County and other parts of the country -- disagreed.

Noting that the county governments in most of his district are led by Republicans, the election of a Democrat in the 29th District "would mean electing someone with no political ties to the governing bodies they represent," Kuhl said.

Kuhl's opponent, Massa, scoffed at his comments.

"My parents are Republicans. I work with them very well," Massa said. "So are my friends and neighbors. I was a Republican at one point. Just because he cannot work with Democrats doesn't mean Democrats can't work with Republicans."

Massa, a retired Navy officer from Corning who lost narrowly to Kuhl in 2006, is the favorite this time around.

A Research 2000 poll earlier this month found Massa with a 7-point lead. And Politico, a Washington newspaper, reported last week that Kuhl appeared on an internal GOP list of 11 members likely to lose their seats.

Liberal bloggers have been attacking Kuhl of late for a television interview in which he said: "I firmly believe the Democratic majority wants the American public to suffer and to hurt so that they can make some political gains at election time, and I think that's wrong."

Kuhl stood by that statement Wednesday, saying he simply meant that Democrats have to show that the country is in "dire straits" in order to win back the White House.

Of course, the Republicans' problems in New York State go far beyond Kuhl's. Bill Reilich, chairman of the Monroe County Democratic Party, said party registrations have leaned heavily Democratic in the state in recent years, thanks in part to the fact that more young voters are registering as Democrats.

But Kryzan, an Amherst Democrat who is running against Republican businessman Christopher J. Lee of Clarence for the open seat in the 26th District, pointed to other reasons for the GOP's dwindling congressional presence.

"I think that voters are beginning to finally realize that the policies of the Republican Party are not good for New Yorkers," Kryzan said, citing GOP tax policies and efforts to cut Medicaid reimbursements.

The rally in Rochester brought together Democratic candidates from districts that stretch as far east as Syracuse. All the candidates thanked Clinton for her endorsement and said they were looking forward to Election Day.

"Is it a great year to be a Democrat or what?" Kryzan said before a crowd that was at least three times larger than the 250 people who had gathered in Ellicott Square.

Asked about the impact of Clinton's appearances, Lee said, "Zero. At the end of the day, people vote for the best candidate," adding that it's important for the New York delegation to have "some balance."

"If you get too skewed to one side or the other, you're more likely to have undesirable results," he said.

But Clinton downplayed such concerns.

"There's a great way to hold people accountable," she said. "It's called elections."


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