By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette — Two Democrats seeking re-election to Congress are hoping for a solid boost in their campaigns from former President Bill Clinton, who still commands immense respect in the party.
As announced earlier, Clinton is scheduled to host a rally Friday for U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul, D-Clarence, and U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, in Rochester. Slaughter's 28th district bordering Lake Ontario no longer includes Niagara and Orleans counties.
Niagara and Orleans will be part of Hochul's new 27th District, starting Jan. 1. The rest of her extensive district covers parts of Ontario and Monroe counties as well as Genesee, Livingston, Wyoming and sections of Erie County.
Both candidates are involved in what party insiders describe as bruising battles to retain their seats. Even at this late stage, Clinton's personal endorsement should provide vital support. Hochul is opposed by Republican Chris Collins, a former Erie County executive, and Slaughter is facing Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, a Republican.
Collins, a wealthy businessman, has been spending lavishly on his campaign as the mandated financial reports will show after Nov. 6. Hochul, a former Erie County clerk, acutely aware of Collins' deep pockets, has been stressing her efforts to assist small businesses, the middle class and senior citizens. She also drives home the need to balance the budget, pointing out that her opponent has a penchant for suggesting spending plans that the nation cannot afford at this time. Some of Collins' paid-political ads feature an obvious mean streak, like the one (black-and-white) portraying his opponent as some kind of evil spirit. At least that's the impression.
Unlike Collins, Hochul cites the need for a cooperative approach to solving problems. "President Clinton represents the very best of bi-partisan leadership, and his record demonstrates the positive progress we can make when Democrats and Republicans work together to grow our economy," she adds.
As for Slaughter, critics sniping at her background call her a "carpetbagger" (an obvious misuse use of the word) from a small coal mining town in Kentucky. A glance at her record, however, shows that Slaughter, 83, currently the oldest member of Congress, is a powerful and respected House member. She has a firm reputation for looking after constituent needs. Among her many accomplishments: winning historic funding increases for women's health and securing the first $500 million earmarked by Congress for breast cancer research at the National Institute of Health.
Meanwhile, opponent Ms. Brooks, 57, unleashed a vicious verbal assault Wednesday on Slaughter, citing "her record of pay raises, expensive trips and tax hikes" on Rochester area families. "Our latest fact-based TV ad exposes entrenched Washington insider Louise Slaughter for running a sleazy campaign to hide her shameful record," said "Brooks for Congress" campaign manager Noah Lebowitz. "Mrs. Slaughter voted to raise her own pay seven times, and then took dozens of lavish foreign trips on the taxpayer dime," Lebowitz charged. (Did you ever see a member of Congress foot the bill for a fact-finding trip to a foreign country?)
Despite the mudslinging, Slaughter looks like a shooin, if you believe the latest polls.
• TOUGH CHOICE: Overheard in Friday's restaurant in the Sheraton at the Falls: "Voting in this election is like trying to decide which street mime to stop and watch" — a hotel guest who said he would rather watch "Criminal Minds" than the debate Wednesday night.