- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 13, 2005

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. (AP) — Even by the scenic route, past the weathered stone walls and long driveways of some of New York City’s wealthiest suburbs, it’s only 14 miles from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s big colonial in Chappaqua to Jeanine Pirro’s modern mansion in Harrison.

The homes are different, but not far apart — a lot like Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Pirro, the leading candidates in the 2006 election for U.S. senator.

Both are forceful, powerful, ambitious women in their mid-50s with husbands who have publicly caused them pain.

Mrs. Clinton attracts attention wherever she goes, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is known around the globe. Mrs. Pirro is not yet well-known even around the state and her husband, Albert Pirro, is a convicted tax evader she is not likely to show off much.

But as Mrs. Pirro, the district attorney in Westchester County, started her campaign last week for the Republican nomination to go after Mrs. Clinton’s seat, it became clear that on many issues the two hold identical or similar positions.

“If there are big issues differentiating them, I’ll be darned if I can see what they are,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Both support civil unions but oppose same-sex “marriage”; both support the death penalty in some cases, and both say it was wrong to let the ban on assault weapons expire.

Mrs. Pirro says she supports the war on terror; Mrs. Clinton voted in favor of going to war in Iraq.

The similarities prompted one of Mrs. Pirro’s Republican challengers, former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, to mock up a chart of the issues titled “Liberal Pirro Equals Liberal Hillary.”

When Mrs. Pirro was asked where she differs from Mrs. Clinton on policy, she said President Bush’s tax cuts “need to be made permanent,” which Mrs. Clinton opposes.

The main reason Mrs. Pirro gave for running is the assertion that Mrs. Clinton will run for president in 2008.

“That’s not going to be enough,” said John Marino, a former state Democratic chairman and a Westchester resident. “That’s weaker than what they tried in 2000, calling Hillary a carpetbagger.”

Michael Edelman, a Republican commentator in Westchester, said voters will see differences in style.

“Jeanine is a lot more sparky, more upbeat,” he said. “She comes across as someone who is compassionate, somebody who is on a mission. Hillary is more of a policy wonk, having lived in the White House with her husband.”

Yet to be seen is what part the candidates’ husbands play in their campaigns.

Despite his White House fling with Monica Lewinsky, Mr. Clinton is generally considered an asset to his wife’s campaign. He went to bat for her Thursday on CNN, praising her work on New York’s economy and health care and her visits to combat zones.

Mr. Pirro was convicted of federal tax evasion in 2000 and served 11 months in prison. While he was behind bars, his wife won election to her third term as district attorney.

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