New York Senate hopeful Rick Lazio (R-NY) stopped in a Cayuga Heights shopping center Friday, leaping from his “Mainstream Express” campaign bus to deliver a stump speech and talk with supporters, many among them members of Cornell’s College Republicans.
Lazio touched on many topics during his speech, his third stop thus far near Ithaca. First, he addressed students at the rally regarding his stance on education.
“For three years in Congress I voted for the highest spending on education,” Lazio said. “I want to build a partnership with companies and generate a climate where businesses can thrive so that you have good jobs waiting for you when you graduate,” Lazio added.
Lazio then hammered his democratic opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton for accepting soft money campaign contributions, calling her the “queen of dirty money.” Soft-money contributions are defined as those contributions exceeding the $2,000 per-donor dollar limit that is allowable for ads stating “vote for so-and-so.” Lazio has no soft-money in his campaign accounts, though Clinton has thus far raised millions in soft-money, the associated press reported.
Lazio also alleged that she was using the open Senate seat as a “stepping stone to the White House.”
Only the following day, Lazio and Clinton reached an historic agreement to ban soft-money ads paid for by their respective parties.
College Republicans and Cornell Democrats, along with native Ithacan Lazio supporters and other students, were present in numbers at the Friday afternoon wine and cheese gathering alongside Community Corners shopping center.
College Republicans and Cornell Leaders for Lazio, an affiliated group, gathered to show support for the congressman.
“About 40 of us came out today. We went to Elmira last week and we’re here today, to get people aware of who [Lazio] is,” said Tom Gilmour ’01, executive director of the College Republicans.
Gilmour explained that “[Lazio] does not enjoy the same name recognition that Hillary does. And though there’s only a small percentage of undecided voters, it’s a close election, so those voters will make a difference come November.”
Amory Houghton, deputy political director for Lazio’s Senate campaign, admitted that Ithaca residents are, for the most part, registered Democrats.
However, Lazio has far from given up on the region.
Houghton said, “Rick [Lazio] has an inclusive message, and he will be a fabulous Senator who already has a proven record of being able to reach across party lines.”
He added, “[Lazio] wants to win Tompkins County. His style is that you’ve got to go to the belly of the beast here to get the message across.”
However, many Democrats present at Lazio’s campaign stop were critical of Lazio’s allegedly evasive tactics, arriving briefly by his bus — the “Mainstream Express” — to an off-campus location. “We’re here to make a statement that [Lazio] should come to Cornell, not just here [in Cayuga Heights],” said Tom Leung ’02, Chair of Students for Hillary.
“He shouldn’t only speak to Republicans in this exclusive setting. Democrats were not even notified of his arrival. If he just came to Cornell and spoke it would be so much better,” Leung said.
Republicans saw Lazio’s visit as an opportunity. “Cornell is a strong bastion of Lazio supports, one of the strongest (college backers) in the state,” explained Erik Weinick ’98. Weinick is the Cornell contact coordinator for the Lazio Youth Campaign, which coordinates the Lazio campaign efforts in 75 campuses, where young Republicans help with voter registration, arranging for absentee ballots, and “generating excitement about the candidacy,” Weinick said.
Cornell democrats shouted “Hi-ll-ary” at times during Lazio’s speech, and later chanted at Lazio’s departing bus, partly because, “Lazio voted to cut money from education, while Hillary [Clinton] has shown strong support for it. We wanted to seize the opportunity to show that colleges agree with Hillary Clinton,” said Mike Moschella ’02, president of Cornell Democrats.
Others Democrats were appalled by Lazio’s Ithaca campaign tactics. “This is an elitist meeting of the members of [Lazio]’s campaign,” explained David Mortlock ’01, assistant strategist for Students for Hillary.
“I think this is representative of the way he will act in the Senate. Will he interact with only members of the Senate or will he try to represent us as students and the rest of New York?” Mortlock said.
Others came to the political rally simply to see what Congressman Lazio was like. “I simply don’t know very much about Lazio. I’m not from New York, but I’m going to vote here, but to me Lazio is someone very few people know about, especially compared to Hillary [Clinton],” said Margaret Loiselle ’01.
Archived article by Yoni Levine