Filing Deadline: July 9
Nov. 4, 1998 Democratic Rep. Charles Schumer emerged victorious from one of this year's most-watched and bloodiest Senate battles, defeating incumbent Republican Alfonse D'Amato. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Schumer won 54 percent and D'Amato won 44 percent.
Issues: The onslaught of attacks swept aside most issues. D'Amato accused Schumer of using negative personal attacks less than a week after the primary. Schumer blasted D'Amato's history of slash-and-burn campaigns. D'Amato caused a stir in the Jewish community on Oct. 20 when he called Schumer "putzhead," a Yiddish slur. D'Amato first denied making the remark, then later sent Schumer a letter standing by his statement (See The Gaffe Heard Round N.Y., Oct. 28, 1998). President and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stumped for Schumer several times, and exremely popular New York Gov. George Pataki (R) appeared with D'Amato.
The two spent more time trying to discredit each other than on issues at their first debate Oct. 24, but they toned it down at their last debate the next day, staying more focused on their views.
They disagree on everything from Medicare to crime. Schumer supports gun control, sponsored the 1993 Brady Bill and was endorsed by gun control activist James Brady; D'Amato opposes gun ownership restrictions. D'Amato opposes abortion rights; Schumer supports them. Schumer, backed by the Sierra Club, attacked D'Amato's environmental record. D'Amato blasted Schumer's support for a commuter tax. Schumer said he supports bailing out Social Security with the budget surplus and said D'Amato favored Medicare cuts. And each accuses the other of ignoring upstate New York's slumping economy.
Polls: Schumer squeezed ahead in some polls in the days before the election, but most surveys showed him leading only within the margin of error. A New York Post/Fox 5 tracking poll conducted Oct. 27-28 by Zogby International showed Schumer with 42 percent and D'Amato with 37 percent, just outside the 3.8 percent margin of error. A Manhattanville College poll conducted a few days earlier showed Schumer up 7 points, with 47 percent to D'Amato's 40 percent. A Marist poll conducted Oct. 26-27 showed Schumer with 48 percent and D'Amato with 44 percent; the survey had a 4 percent margin of error.
Fund-raising: D'Amato and Schumer are the 1998 campaign's two top fund-raisers nationwide. According to Federal Election Commission reports, D'Amato raised nearly $23 million, spent about $19.6 million and had about $3.1 million in cash on hand in mid-October. Schumer raised nearly $14 million, spent about $13.3 million and had about $590,000. Various financial, insurance and real-estate business PACs funneled $3.9 million to D'Amato since 1992 (See Money Talks, Feb. 19, 1998).
Advertising: Schumer and D'Amato fought it out in a nasty, all-out ad blitzkrieg. New York Republicans aired an ad Oct. 28 attacking Schumer for switching votes in Congress. Schumer countered two days later with a spot saying D'Amato missed 966 votes in his career and accusing him of being hypocritical.
Schumer spent $1.4 million on biographical spots early this year and went on the air with a round of issue spots this summer. Another state GOP ad featured D'Amato endorsements from New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former mayor Ed Koch. D'Amato spent more than $2 million early in the race for TV spots touting his record on constituent services.
Susan Heavey, washingtonpost.com
Susan Heavey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
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