- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton officially started her re-election campaign yesterday, accepting the Democratic nomination for her New York seat with a promise of fighting for energy independence and fair wages while avoiding questions on her front-runner status if she chooses to seek the presidency in 2008.

“I know you took a chance on me back in 2000, and I have worked every day to earn your trust,” the former first lady told the crowd at the New York Democratic convention in Buffalo.

Mrs. Clinton, 58, leads other possible Democratic presidential candidates by double digits, and many political insiders think she will capture her party’s nomination easily. But she keeps the focus on the fall, talking about local issues to help boost the state Democratic ticket and acting as a national leader helping to win back the party’s congressional majority.

Her acceptance speech included hints of her higher ambitions, however, as the senator asked New Yorkers to “stand with me” as she works to create well-paying jobs and to fund research for alternative energy. She also touched on economic and foreign policy and said: “We all need to stand up and demand new leadership that will once again put our country back on the right track.”

Taking jabs at the “uncompromising” and “wrongheaded” Bush administration and Republicans who control Congress, the senator said the president is fiscally irresponsible, and called the response to Hurricane Katrina a “disgrace.” She did not, however, mention some of the hot-button issues before Congress, including the recent immigration bill or an upcoming vote to define marriage as the union of a man and woman.

She touted her recently announced energy plan that, among other things, requires oil companies put a share of their profits toward alternative energy. She touched upon the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that struck New York just months after she had been sworn in, and praised the “united” spirit in the aftermath.

Mrs. Clinton asked convention participants to “stand for our troops” by making sure they have the body armor and other equipment needed for combat. The senator, who voted for the Iraq war, said Democrats must pressure the Bush administration and the Iraqi government to assume responsibility for their own safety, “so that we can begin to bring our troops home.”

Anti-war candidate Jonathan Tasini plans a petition drive to get on the September ballot to challenge Mrs. Clinton for the nomination.

Mr. Tasini called Mrs. Clinton a “mediocre” lawmaker and sharply criticized her support for the war, saying her comments on bringing the troops home “had no meaning at all.”

Still, he knows he is embarking on a very difficult campaign.

“I’m facing someone who has 99 percent name recognition and $25 million in the bank,” he said.

Mrs. Clinton most likely will be the candidate to face former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, a Republican, in November. Despite the competition, she is expected to cruise to re-election without spending much of her $20 million in campaign funding. She can use all of that money, up to date as of March 31, for a presidential bid, should she decide to pursue moving back to the White House in two years.

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