The Case for Rick

by Brian Nick | 10/12/00 5:00am

In case you did not know, there's a rather interesting race going on in New York to fill the Senate seat that is about to be vacated by retiring Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The Republicans, after seeing their initial choice, New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, drop out for personal and health-related reasons, have nominated four-term Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio. The Democrats, in one of the most talked about political moves in the history of this country, have nominated controversial First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Before I write any further I feel it is only fair to tell you that I am a Long Islander, and that I spent this entire past summer working on the Lazio Campaign in Manhattan. I still feel, however, that as a New Yorker who followed this race closely even before signing on with the congressman's campaign, I am able to give an evaluation of the candidates. That having been said, however, it bewilders me that anyone could even contemplate pulling the lever for Mrs. Clinton. Allow me to give you an idea of the core differences between the two candidates.

Lazio has represented his Long Island district since 1992. During his years in Congress, Lazio has sponsored and pushed various bills through Congress that have, among other things, brought tremendous advances in low-income housing to New York and cleaned up the Long Island Sound. His education proposal would help many poor students, especially minorities, escape from the 100 plus in New York's hopelessly corrupt school systems, but, contrary to what the Clinton campaign would have you believe, would take NO money away from productive public schools. Lazio himself attended public schools on Long Island, and his two young daughters are currently enrolled in public schools as well.

As we all know, Mrs. Clinton has only spent one of her 52 years living in New York, has never held public office and cannot honestly claim to have worked on any legislation that has been enacted into law. (She's tried, though. We'll get to that.) When given the responsibility of overseeing Arkansas' education program, she allowed test scores and student performance to drop to 50th in the nation (or a MUCH more respectable 49th if you believe her campaign. Those crafty spin doctors and their smooth talk!) In 1993, Mrs. Clinton attempted to construct a socialist health care plan that would have cost New York 75,000 jobs and eliminated teaching hospitals, which are crucial to the viability of New York's health care. This plan, constructed in secrecy, would have taken over nearly 20 percent of the United States economy if enacted. Thankfully it failed miserably and did not even make it off the floor of Congress.

These poignant differences only tell part of the story and to go on would only serve to widen the qualification gap between the two candidates. We've heard rhetoric ad nauseam about the supposed stature gap, but when one of these two people enters the Senate in January, the more experienced candidate will bring a greater advantage to his constituency. In addition, with both houses of Congress likely to remain under Republican control, New Yorkers would be served well to have at least one Senator in the political majority. This would help ensure that New York starts getting its fair share of funding once again. Currently, with two Democratic Senators, New York sends about $15 billion a year more to Washington than it gets back. Where does this money go? Southern states, mostly -- like Arkansas, for example.

Too often I hear people tell me that Lazio has not given the voters a good enough reason to vote FOR him as opposed to voting against Mrs. Clinton. Please allow me to humbly offer my insight and give you the reasons to vote for that you should be looking for. For all those who claim that Lazio is a Newt Gingrich clone I submit the following: Rick Lazio is a Pro-Choice, Pro-Gun Control Republican who has been endorsed by environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters in his past Congressional elections. Did he support the "Contract with America" in 1994, which included Medicare reform, a balanced budget, and welfare reform? Yes, and so did Bill Clinton (Hillary Clinton's husband -- yes, she still has a last name). I contend, therefore, that it is unreasonable to claim that Lazio is a rank-and-file Republican.

I have had the honor of meeting Lazio on several occasions. He is a warm, intelligent and compassionate man who cares a great deal about helping the people of his state. He has shown leadership in initiating negotiations with Mrs. Clinton that led to an agreement not to use soft money in this campaign. Even when his opponent spent the summer in Hollywood raising about $10 million in soft dollars, he refused to accept a dime. I know this because one of my jobs this summer was to call anyone that had sent us soft money checks and explain to them that we had to return their donations, because the congressman was not taking soft dollars. All in all I returned about $100,000, which should show you how committed Rick is to this issue.

There are those who say that Hillary could be running against a monkey and they'd still wouldn't vote for her. They don't even have to look at Lazio to know that they're voting for him. I contend that if people took the time to find out about him or saw him speak, it is Lazio's impeccable character and credentials that make this vote an easy one. It doesn't matter who his opponent is. Rick Lazio is ready to serve as a senator, and he deserves a chance to prove it.

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