Press Releases

Call her senator: Hillary Clinton wins seat

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 08, 2000

NEW YORK — Hillary Rodham Clinton triumphed in her historic quest for the U.S. Senate, defeating homegrown GOP Rep. Rick Lazio on Tuesday to become the only first lady ever elected to public office. 

Just before 11 p.m. Tuesday, with 51 percent of precincts counted, Clinton had 1,698,421 votes, or 54 percent; Lazio had 1,423,562 votes, or 45 percent. 

“You came out and said that issues and ideals matter,” Clinton told a cheering crowd minutes later. In the wings, her husband, the president, watched and grinned. 

“I am profoundly grateful to all of you for giving me the chance to serve you,” she said.  

“I will do everything I can to be worthy of your faith and trust and to honor the powerful example of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.” 

The campaign, which pitted her against a powerhouse New York City mayor and then a lesser-known Republican congressman, was the longest and costliest race in the state’s history.  

It saw issues of character, place of birth, marital fidelity, and campaign finance collide with discussion of education, Social Security and the state’s economy. 

Clinton herself – her activism, her issues, her president husband and her love-it-or-hate-it personality – proved to be the main issue in the campaign against the Long Island congressman to replace retiring Democrat Moynihan. 

“She overcame the skeptics, and worked and worked and won,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said at the Manhattan hotel serving as Clinton’s election-night headquarters. 

Lazio, in conceding, called for unity and pronounced the effort worthwhile. 

“I feel like the Mets,” he said, invoking the losers of New York City’s subway series last month. Behind him, Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani applauded. 

“She has won this race,” Lazio said of Clinton. “It’s time for us to stand as New Yorkers together.” 

Clinton’s planning for the Senate race began in the living quarters of the White House in February of last year when she met for several hours with New York political veteran Harold Ickes, a former White House deputy chief of staff during President Clinton’s first term.  

That very day, the Senate voted on whether to remove her husband, an impeachment triggered by his affair with Monica Lewinsky. 

By early July, she was at Moynihan’s upstate New York farm receiving his blessing and kicking off a summer-long “listening tour” of New York. In January, she moved into a $1.7 million house she and the president had bought in suburban Westchester County. 

At the time, the likely Republican candidate was New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. 

But the “clash of the titans” wasn’t to be. Giuliani never seemed to warm to the campaign.  

By mid-May, he was out of the race, battling prostate cancer and beset by marital woes. 

Coming off the GOP bench, Lazio literally fell flat on his face, a Memorial Day parade mishap which left him with a fat lip and stitches.  

But within days, Lazio was running almost even with Clinton in the polls and amassing a campaign war chest that would soon surpass the first lady’s own impressive lode. 

By mid-October, the two had spent a combined $58.6 million in the race.  

With the $19 million spent by Giuliani added in, the race became among the most expensive Senate campaigns in history. 

Lazio advertised himself as the “real New Yorker,” a moderate Republican who traveled the state on a bus called “The Mainstream Express.”  

In fund-raising letters, he denounced the Clintons for “embarrassing the nation.”  

Republican allies said the first lady wanted to use the Senate seat as a stepping stone to run for president. 

Clinton repeatedly sought to portray Lazio as out of step with New Yorkers, noting that he had served as a deputy whip under former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. 

On Tuesday morning, as voters headed to the polls, Republican Gov. George Pataki’s wife said Giuliani’s failure to get out of the race sooner was “selfish” and hurt Lazio’s chances. 

Appearing on Albany’s WROW-AM radio, Libby Pataki said Giuliani “hung around way too long.”  

She compared the mayor to Hillary Clinton, saying both made their decision based on polls. 

“They are definitely creatures of the same stripe,” she said. 

The mayor’s top political adviser reacted with incredulity. “We don’t believe she actually said that,” Bruce Teitelbaum said. 

Suzanne Morris, a press aide to the governor, said later that Libby Pataki “knows that her words were inappropriate.”