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Brooklyn Daily Eagle covers Clinton visit to Wagner

September 7, 2010
Bay Ridge Democrats Attend Staten Island Rally
    STATEN ISLAND — A funny thing happened on Friday at Wagner College in Staten Island. Former President Bill Clinton showed up (more or less) on time to stump for Rep. Michael McMahon.
    The Democratic Party’s elder statesman keeps a jam-packed schedule these days as the midterm elections near. He’s notorious for being late. But his timing in New York was spot-on, perhaps in more than one sense.
    By bringing out the big gun, Rep. McMahon and the Democratic Party signaled that they intend to vigorously defend New York’s 13th Congressional District, a somewhat cumbersome territory to represent because it includes all of Staten Island plus a chunk of South Brooklyn.
    At the same time, the glossy campaign event indicated that the party considers the Republican challenge a formidable one. McMahon’s campaign team points to its edge in in-district support as proof positive of McMahon’s standing in the community.
    The locals showed up in droves, excited for the first area appearance of the country’s 41st president. Clinton apologized for his hoarseness that comes with so many speaking engagements before launching into an attack on Republican economic strategies.
    “I hope that I have earned the right to be heard on the economy and the budget,” he said, before citing almost 23 million new jobs and a $600-million-dollar deficit reduction during his administration. He compared that to former President George W. Bush’s doubling of the deficit coupled with a net loss of 5 million jobs when the months immediately following his presidency are included.
    Clinton warned the home team crowd they’d be in for more of the same with a Republican congress. He argued that their cure for the economy’s malaise—meaning tax cuts for the rich, translated into: “We’ll do what we did before, on steroids.”
    McMahon and the Clintons appear to have a strong relationship. The congressman supported Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and she rewarded that support with a campaign appearance leading up to McMahon’s landslide victory in 2008; the Republican Party never recovered from the loss of support after incumbent Vito Fossella’s DUI arrest led to revelations of infidelity and a second family in Virginia.
    McMahon lost a chunk of the crowd once Clinton wrapped his 25-minute speech. But a healthy share of Democratic loyalists remained. “We came for McMahon,” said Mary Nolan, 75, of Bay Ridge. “We felt it was important to represent Brooklyn for the district.”

    Nolan traveled with a couple of carloads of Bay Ridge Democrats for Change, all of whom felt McMahon had done an admirable job representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and other southern Brooklyn communities. In his speech, McMahon noted renovations to the 86th Street station and several other Brooklyn subway stops among his accomplishments.
    This sample of Brooklynites did express disappointment with McMahon’s vote against health care reform, but appreciated that it came with a reason. McMahon told voters that the bill would jeopardize two Staten Island hospitals.
    “If I ever had any doubt about McMahon, it was wiped away after watching the Republican debate,” said Dr. Brian Cassenbrock of Bay Ridge. He said that both Republican candidates — Michael Grimm and Michael Allegretti — promised to repeal the health care bill if elected.
    McMahon referenced the diverse nature of his district throughout the speech. It’s a district less known for diversity, home not just to Italian- and Irish-Americans but also Russians, Arab Americans, Liberians and Mexicans. “I’m the only [candidate] who’s built bridges in this community,” said McMahon.
    McMahon’s campaign manager, Jonathan Yedin, suggested that such support is evident from in-district campaign contributions. An analysis of itemized individual contributions on the Federal Election Commission’s web site indicated the following: McMahon received about 42 percent of the $1.1 million individual contributions from constituents. He’s followed by Michael Allegretti, who received almost 36 percent of $519,000 from within the district. Michael Grimm lags with only about 11 percent of his $774,294 from people living in Staten Island or southern Brooklyn.
    McMahon leads all candidates with PAC money — nearly $1 million. Each of the Republican candidates have received less than $5,000 from PACs.
    McMahon leveraged Clinton’s star power for some additional fundraising at a private event immediately following the speeches. But Clinton, ever the crowd pleaser, toured the front row for handshakes as disco classic “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” pumped over the loudspeakers.

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