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Editorial: With hard work and growing influence, Schumer has earned another term

Editor’s note: This is one in a series editorials endorsing candidates for some of the offices to be filled Nov. 8. These endorsements by the editorial board are intended to aid voters in their evaluations of the candidates for those offices. Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, we urge you to vote.

This is as easy and obvious a decision as any observer could ever be asked to make. Charles E. Schumer is a powerful, attentive and influential member of the U.S. Senate and his clout will only grow as he becomes either the chamber’s majority or minority leader, depending on the results of Senate elections. It would be an act of self-sabotage not to re-elect him.

Schumer is New York’s senior senator, first elected to the seat in 1998. A Democrat from Brooklyn, he promised in that first campaign that he would be a senator for New Yorkers of all regions and all philosophies, and for 18 years, he has made good on the pledge.

Not everyone will agree – such is politics – but time and again, he has made a difference for New Yorkers: helping to keep the Bills in Buffalo, pushing a shamefully reluctant Congress to help with the response to Hurricane Sandy, fighting to win and then protect hard-won improvements in pilot training after a deadly airplane crash in Clarence Center, working to maximize the public benefit of KeyBank’s acquisition of First Niagara, and any of literally dozens of other efforts.

He is proudly Democratic, but an independent thinker. He opposed President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, for example. He reaches across the aisle to work with Republicans, rejecting the idea that political adversaries must also be enemies. That destructive dynamic, more than any other factor, has led to Congress’ inability to function as the Founding Fathers intended. The national legislature was supposed to be a place where competing ideas and interests found resolution, not rank, automatic hostility. Schumer is, in that regard, old school.

He also understands the rules of the Senate, the art of politics and compromise, and the creative use of the metaphorical two-by-four. He will be the most effective Senate leader, in the minority or majority, since the departure of the highly respected – and much missed – George Mitchell of Maine.

Schumer’s opponent is Wendy Long, an attorney and a supporter of Donald Trump and his hard-line positions. She believes, for example, that the Department of Education should be abolished. It’s the wrong approach; the federal role in education should be limited and carefully structured, but national leadership is important to the goal of ensuring that all Americans are educated in a way that prepares them to compete on an international stage in an ever-shrinking world.

But the problem isn’t simply that Long’s politics are inflexibly hard right. She doesn’t even really want the job, telling The Buffalo News editorial board that she had “no burning desire” to run. Even four years ago, when she ran against Kirsten Gillibrand, New York’s junior senator, she says the experience “was not pleasant to me.”

It’s an odd campaign theme – elect me because I don’t much want the job. An effective senator needs to be passionate about the work and the responsibilities it entails.

Schumer has that passion. More than most elected officials, he embodies the concept of the happy warrior – the politician who relishes the work and who seeks to win by benefiting his state and country. He is well regarded, effective and in the business of making government work for all New Yorkers – and all Americans. Schumer is, in that regard, exactly what a senator should be. He deserves easy, overwhelming re-election.

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