Hillary Rodham Clinton made it official yesterday: She is considering the race for Senate in New York.
"This morning we filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission to establish the Hillary Rodham Clinton for U.S. Senate Exploratory Committee," said Clinton's committee spokesman, Howard Wolfson.
The committee has been in operation for almost a week, but now she can officially start the exploring, which she will do today, when she begins a summerlong "listening tour" with a four-day jaunt through Upstate New York.
The tour opens at the farm of retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), the intellectual heavyweight she hopes to replace, and continues with an education round table at the State University of New York at Oneonta. Thursday she will start early with another "listening event" in Cooperstown -- this time about health care, a topic with which she has some familiarity.
Also on this week's itinerary for Clinton and her entourage of Secret Service agents, aides and more than 200 media people: Utica, Syracuse and Albany.
"Hillary Clinton is eager to begin this tour and looks forward to listening to New Yorkers across the state," Wolfson said.
The first lady plans to spend a great deal of time in New York this summer. Some advisers believe that if she weathers the inevitable spate of carpetbagger questions now, 16 months before the election, voters will get tired of the issue by the time the campaign really heats up.
GOP Senate fund-raising chairman Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared on a talk show Sunday with an actual carpet bag to discuss her candidacy, and New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) continued to needle her yesterday about a comment from one of her aides dismissing the possibility of the Clintons vacationing in the "fly-infested" Adirondacks.
"I would recommend that people vacation in the Adirondacks. It's good for the economy of the state," he said. "As far as I know, there are flies in Massachusetts, Vermont. I think they even have flies in Arkansas."
Today, Clinton will be met in Binghamton by Republicans staging a contest that offers a weekend at a resort in the Adirondack Mountains for whoever shows up in the best fly costume.
Reacting to news of Clinton's filing, Giuliani called exploring "a good thing."
"Who could have anything against exploring? Or listening," he added.
Forming the committee allows Clinton to raise money for polling, travel and other exploratory activities.
Clinton also announced a few personnel additions. William J. Cunningham, the managing partner of a Long Island law firm and a former federal prosecutor, will be the treasurer for her exploratory committee. Lynn Utrecht, a former attorney at the FEC, will be the committee's general counsel. The papers were filed yesterday by Jim Lamb, a former minority counsel for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
In other New York political news, the Rev. Al Sharpton -- the racial activist turned Democratic power broker who happens to be a walking political dilemma for Clinton -- has made another bid for respectability, cutting off his famous pompadour for a more conservative hairdo. He explained he was getting too old to pull off the James Brown look and still expect people to take him seriously.