First lady campaigns in Queens

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U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Clinton made two campaign appearances on Saturday in Jamaica and Flushing, and while the audiences may have been very different, her message to both groups was about the same.

Clinton began her first swing through the city as a declared candidate, speaking to Democratic party heavyweights at an early morning pep rally at York College in Jamaica. Then she addressed a room full of senior citizens at the Selfhelp Scheuer House of Flushing before moving on to stops in all of the five boroughs by day's end.

She entered the York faculty dining room with Democratic County Chairman Tom Manton, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans) and U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-St. Albans).

"The votes come from southeast Queens," Spigner told the audience of community leaders and local elected officials. "This area is critical and crucial for the election."

Spigner said the turnout of the 130,000 registered Democrats in southeast Queens could spell the difference between victory and defeat in Clinton's upcoming senatorial race against Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has not yet officially announced his candidacy.

Giuliani has made inroads into traditionally liberal Democratic areas, but Spigner said in his district almost no one votes Republican. The only speaker to take a direct swipe at the mayor was Meeks, who said the mayor would not be able to work in a legislative setting.

"Dictatorship does not work in the U.S. Congress," Meeks said.

Clinton was greeted by a standing ovation and loud cheers of "Hillary, Hillary" when she took the podium. Clinton did not mention the mayor and only referred to the president as "my husband" during her speech where she discussed a variety of issues ranging from teachers' salaries to the rising cost of prescription medication.

The candidate said she wanted to look into having FDA-approved drugs that have been sold to other countries shipped back to the United States and sold at lower, wholesale prices.

"Politics is the art of making possible the impossible," Clinton said.

She credited the president with lowering the deficit and the national unemployment rate, saying Americans would have thought this impossible when he was first elected.

"But if there aren't jobs in southeast Queens, I'm not satisfied," Clinton said.

At her next campaign stop, Clinton appeared with state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and promoted a $3,000 tax credit to help people care for their disabled or ill relatives.

Clinton said the tax code should encourage relatives to care for loved ones at home if they so choose.

After her speech, Clinton spent several minutes fielding questions from the audience, several of whom were survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.

The Selfhelp organization was founded to care for Holocaust survivors, but has since expanded to run various programs, centers, and residences servicing seniors.

One woman asked Clinton what the United States should do about Jorge Haider's Freedom Party, which has just become part of the government in Austria.

Haider's popularity in Austria has raised the hackles of many European leaders, because of his extremist, anti-foreigner views and complimentary remarks he has made about Hitler's Third Reich regime.

"I'm very concerned about this," she said. " We have to keep people focused on the resurgence of xenophobia and bigotry.

She also said Haider is by no means the leader of Austria and he has promised not to say anything to alarm Jews and world leaders.

Rita Newman, who was with a Selfhelp group from Long Island City, was impressed by Clinton.

"She came across as very real and caring. She has my vote," Newman said.

According to published reports, polls indicate that Clinton and Giuliani are in a virtual dead heat.

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