Ex-president encores for Gillibrand

Bill Clinton wows the crowd in Queensbury while Sweeney campaigns in Saratoga and Rensselaer counties

Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Correction: Correction published November 8, 2006 In some editions of Tuesday's Capital Region section, a highlighted quote from a story about the Albany County Airport Authority was inadvertently placed with a story about the 20th Congressional District race.

QUEENSBURY - For the second time in two weeks, former President Bill Clinton made a Capital Region appearance to support Democratic congressional candi date Kirsten Gillibrand.

Clinton spoke for about 25 minutes at a hangar at Floyd D. Bennett Memorial Airport in this Warren County community. A crowd of about 1,200 supporters, ranging from mothers with young children to older people with walkers, turned out for the event. Clinton's appearance comes with Gillibrand and incumbent Republican John Sweeney running about even - according to the most recent Siena poll - in the race for the 20th Congressional District seat. Clinton also spoke in support of Gillibrand Oct. 27 at Albany International Airport.

The ex-president and Gillibrand were joined on stage by U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty, D-Green Island, and his granddaughter, Teigin.

Some in the crowd cried, while others celebrated, even shaking hands with the former president.

"I wanted to see what this man is like, really like," said Queensbury resident Linda Keating, 58, who described herself as a registered Republican who voted for Clinton. She started to cry as she talked about seeing her hours cut back at her job as a florist. It was the reason she had Monday off work and the free time to attend the rally.

"When the economy is bad, it affects everybody. It's like a kick in the stomach," Keating said.

The sign she held said "time for a change," as did many of the signs at the rally.

In his speech, Clinton criticized the Bush administration for its handling of Social Security.

"The President says he's going to address it after the election. When I was in college we called that a euphemism," Clinton said. "When I was growing up in Arkansas we would say he was going to stick a fork in the thing."

Clinton also said the country needs a new energy policy and needs to show more support for servicemen and women in Iraq. But for the most part, he talked about getting out the vote.

He compared undecided voters to someone afraid to jump off a diving board.

But Clinton said voting for Gillibrand is the right thing to do.

"There will be people showing up at the polls tomorrow knowing they should vote for (Gillibrand) and unsure that they can," Clinton said. "We've got to prove they're not better than we are at getting out our vote."

After his speech, Clinton shook hands at the rope line for another 20 minutes while Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." and the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" played. Drew Monthie, 41, an ecologist from Queensbury, said the former president's second appearance meant Gillibrand had a good shot at "kicking Sweeney out."

Suzanne Mott of Glens Falls was there with her daughter, 2-year-old Marion Mott.

"I'm a special education teacher, and there needs to be more money for kids. There is just not enough," Mott said.

John Donoghue, a field representative for Laborers' Local 186, had two baseballs signed by Clinton. He said he will display them on a shelf next to autographs from Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Terry Bradshaw.

Linda Keating said she reached through four rows of people to shake Clinton's hand.

"He reached out like it was important, like that contact was important," she said.

Elsewhere Monday, Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, spent Monday in Saratoga and Rensselaer counties.

He did some door-to-door campaigning, made calls to voters from a Clifton Park call center, greeted voters outside several supermarkets and made a stop in Milton to discuss some federal funds being provided there.

"We're still working hard. I'm going to work hard until the polls closed," he said Monday evening. He was planning to head over to Columbia County for some last-minute campaigning there.

As voters go to the polls, Sweeney said he hopes they will focus on his experience as the incumbent for the past eight years. He has touted his ability as a member of the Appropriations Committee to bring federal funds to the district.

"I think this race is about qualifications, about who's got a record and who doesn't, who has delivered," he said. "All the negativity that's out there is just a distraction."

Sweeney was unmoved by the return of former President Clinton for a second endorsement of his opponent.

"This is about us, this is about qualifications to serve," he said. "It's not about anybody else."

Leigh Hornbeck can be reached at 581-8438 or by e-mail at lhornbeck@timesunion.com.

Staff writer Tim O'Brien contributed to this story.