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A fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) essentially turned into a political pep rally when U.S. Senate Candidate Hillary Clinton urged more than 800 people who attended to vote for Democratic Party candidates in November's national, state, and local elections.
"New York state is going to elect a lady, a first lady, to the United States Senate," said Meeks during the Friday event.
"We have to continue the policies that work," Clinton told the enthusiastic crowd at Antun's, a large catering hall in Queens Village.
Clinton said 22 million new jobs, the lowest black unemployment rate in history, and the lowest child poverty levels since 1979 were evidence that President Clinton's domestic policies worked.
"We have to protect this and build on this and elect Al Gore and Joe Lieberman," Clinton said. "We will fight a Republican nominee to the Supreme Court if, God forbid, George W. Bush is elected."
The fund-raiser and awards dinner was essentially a who's who in southeast Queens as community leaders, local elected officials, and influential clergy members dotted the crowd. State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, Public Advocate Mark Green, and City Comptroller Alan Hevesi attended.
About 850 people attended the fund-raiser and others had to be turned away because the dinner was sold out, said Candace Sandy, Meeks' spokeswoman. Tickets cost $55, $100, $250, and $500, but Meeks was not immediately disclosing how much was raised that evening, Sandy said.
Meeks predicted that Clinton would defeat her Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio (R-Brightwaters), in November and that McCall would be elected governor in 2002.
"Greg is always right when he makes predictions," McCall joked with the crowd.
While introducing Clinton, McCall told an anecdote addressing the criticism that Clinton is not a genuine New Yorker.
"Her parents chose to live in Illinois, her husband chose Arkansas and Washington, DC.," said McCall.
"But for the first time, when she had a choice where to live, she chose New York," he said.
Clinton also praised Meeks and said voters should re-elect him in November. Meeks is unopposed in his bid for a second full term in the House of Representatives.
She said if the Democrats take back the majority in the House of Representatives, Meeks' standing and influence would substantially improve.
Meeks told the crowd that when the votes are tallied, there will be more votes for Clinton in his 6th Congressional District than in any other district statewide.
Clinton has made numerous appearances in southeast Queens throughout the course of the campaign. Some political observers have said while the black community is solidly behind Clinton, she cannot take that vote for granted and must push for a large black voter turnout on Election Day.
But Mary Jones Jackson, a St. Albans resident who attended the fund-raiser, said she thought the importance of southeast Queens in the election was being exaggerated.
"It really depends on upstate," Jackson said.
Several local politicians said during interviews that Clinton's delivery and style had improved markedly since when she first declared her candidacy back in February.
"Her delivery is really powerful," said Morshed Alam, a candidate for Morton Povman's (D-Forest Hills) City Council seat. Povman will have to step down at the end of 2002 because of term limits.
"She would make a good state senator," joked state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans.)
Reach reporter Bryan Schwartzman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.