Gillibrand gets party boost

Dems see race against Sweeney as part of a larger national effort

Section: Capital Region,  Page: B5

Date: Monday, May 22, 2006

ALBANY - The second-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives pledged at least $14,000 Sunday to help Kirsten Gillibrand unseat Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, part of a larger campaign that Democrats hope will propel them into the House majority for the first time in more than a decade.

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who would become the House majority leader if Democrats can pull off the 15-seat grab in November, admitted he did not know Gillibrand well when he spoke on her behalf Sunday evening at the Crowne Plaza. But Hoyer, the House Democratic whip from Maryland, said he traveled to Albany because he believes the Republican control of the 20th Congressional District is vulnerable.

Gillibrand, he said, can help end the "culture of corruption, cronyism, cover-up and incompetence" in the nation's capital.

"This is one of the most important races in the United States of America," Hoyer declared, prompting raucous applause and whoops and hollers from the crowd that packed the small room on the first floor of the State Street hotel.

"You," Hoyer added later, "can make one-fifteenth of the difference in changing the course that America is on."

The fundraiser was held in Albany, which is not part of the district, and came a day after former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., came to Saratoga Springs and Brusnwick to stump for Sweeney.

The district includes all or parts of Warren, Washington, Essex, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Otsego, Columbia, Greene, Delaware and Dutchess counties.

Democrats currently hold 201 of the 435 House seats, with 231 Republicans, one independent and two vacancies.

Citing statistics ranging from median household income to job creation, Hoyer said the country has not done as well under current Republican leadership as it did under the previous Democratic administration.

Gillibrand then took the podium, outlining her positions on issues that ranged from promoting energy independence by cultivating domestic technological innovation to ending the U.S. presence in Iraq, which includes agreeing to keep no permanent military bases in the country and renouncing a stake in its oil supplies. Hoyer, who was called in after U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Chicago, had to cancel his appearance because of what Gillibrand's campaign called a family emergency, delivered two $2,500 checks from Emanuel and himself, promising more aid as the race continues.

Earlier in the evening, bouncing from one embrace and handshake to another, U.S. Rep. Michael R. McNulty, D-Green Island, could be heard responding confidently to a indistinct question, as he slapped a red-white-and-blue Gillibrand sticker on his dark suit.

"It," McNulty said, "will be better in November."

Staff writer Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@