Hillary Clinton Wins the Highest-Profile Senate Race in American History
By Munir K. Nasser
Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first president’s wife to win elected office, defeating her Republican challenger, Rick Lazio, in the most expensive, highest-profile Senate race in American history.
The first lady outdistanced Lazio and became the first lady to move from the White House to the Senate, capping her long, strange trip to join the Republican-controlled institution that acquitted her impeached husband last year.
Republicans had long desired to drive the First Family out of Washington, to end the Clinton era once and for all, but the first lady now seems likely to be one of the city's most prominent Democrats for the next six years.
Observers in Washington point to the fact that no other first lady had ever run for office in any state, much less a newly adopted state. Hillary Clinton grew up in Illinois, went to school in Massachusetts and Connecticut, then practiced law in Arkansas before moving to the White House. Now, after standing by her husband’s side during his races for attorney general, governor and president, and after his humiliating affair with a White House intern, the first lady has finally established an electoral identity of her own.
The intense emotions inspired by the first lady made this the most expensive Senate race in history, with half of an estimated $100 million raised out of state. It was probably also the highest-profile Senate race ever, attracting camera crews from Turkey, Denmark and Japan. And her dual status as candidate and first lady made this one of the weirdest Senate races ever; at times, she even criticized her husband's Middle East policies during the campaign.
Last week, after Clinton was embroiled in a controversy over donations from anti-Israel activists, Lazio declined to denounce a Republican phone campaign that linked her to the bombing of the USS Cole, a move that clearly backfired.
Black, Hispanic and Jewish voters, union members, liberals and moderates backed Mrs. Clinton. Women, particularly working women, supported Mrs. Clinton strongly. She was also backed by people who said their financial situation has improved over the last four years.
Mrs. Clinton appeared to be helped by the support that her husband, President Clinton, enjoys in New York. About two-thirds of the voters in New York State approve of the job President Clinton has been doing, and three-quarters of them voted for the First Lady.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)