Thompson Relates to Working Folks, Schumer Says

Gillibrand is in an especially tough position in trying to distance herself from Paterson without appearing ungrateful

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., left, and Gov. David Paterson, speak at a news conference in Albany, N.Y. earlier this year.

    Sen. Charles Schumer has thrown his support behind Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Thompson, who will try to unseat Mayor Bloomberg in next month's election, but both Schumer and fellow Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand hedged on whether they will support embattled Gov. David Paterson next year.

    Schumer and Gillibrand — who have both spoken highly of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the past -- refused to criticize him at an event in Union Square today. But Schumer said he thinks Thompson is better suited to help working class families, saying New York can't become too divided between rich and poor.

    "He spent his entire life fighting for working families and middle class families throughout New York," he said.

    For his part, Thompson is struggling to raise money, while Bloomberg, running as an independent, has spent $64.8 million of his own cash seeking a third term.  The election is November 3rd.

    After endorsing Thompson today, Gillibrand were asked about Democratic Gov. David Paterson -- who is suffering under historic low approval ratings and pressure from the White House to stand down in next year's election.

    When asked if either Senator would be endorsing Paterson next year, both hedged heavily.

    "Well, I am help...you know, these are very, very difficult times for a governor, any governor, giving the economy and everything else. I’m doing everything I can to help David Paterson work together and maximize New York’s help from Washington," Schumer said.

    Gillibrand, who owes her current position to Paterson, was as equally evasive.

    "Well, I support the governor and, you know, he said he’s going to run and we are all focused right now on this election cycle," she said.

    Gillibrand was a little-known second-term congresswoman before Paterson named her in January to her powerful new job, replacing Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate.

    National Democrats are eyeing the 2010 races nervously, hoping to avoid a repeat of 1994 when, under similar conditions, they lost the House and spent a dozen years in the minority. In the Senate, they have only the 60 votes needed to ward off a Republican filibuster — so a damaged Gillibrand worries the leadership.

    Despite Republican vows to go after the freshman senator, no GOP candidate has emerged. Many in the party, including new state chairman Edward Cox, want to see former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani run against Gillibrand — but he says he is considering a run for governor. A Sept. 22 Siena College poll shows Giuliani beating her 46-38 if the election were held now.