In one of 1998's most costly, caustic senate races, New York candidates Charles Schumer and Alfonse D'Amato battled it out with negative campaign ads, personal slurs, and attention on previous political mistakes. Yet somewhere among the mud-slinging and personal attacks some issues emerged, of which education became a top priority. Schumer and D'amato both realized the importance of education to New York voters and therefore the necessity of addressing the issue in each of their campaigns. D'amato promised to reform a dysfunctional school system, by improving the quality of teachers, which he blamed for many of the problems. Schumer, conversely, sought to improve the current, well-functioning system, with increased funding and standards for students (Saunders, 1998). Although both candidates were forced to address their contrasting views on of education as a response to public pressure, the issue was clouded by the negative campaign and discussed mainly in the context of the other's past political actions.
Education became such an important issue in this senate race because New York City's recent rejuvenation and economic boom has shifted New Yorker's focus from social issues such as crime and welfare to those of education and taxes. New York has previously been a state politically divided between the north and south on many issues, but education is one that unites them. With many educated citizens of upstate New York fleeing for more promising academic territory and downstate's hope of retaining an educated middle class, education reform has gained importance throughout the entire state. A Quinnipiac College poll asking New Yorkers to name the single most important problem facing the state resultin...
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... true of their entire campaign: very good, strong platforms on the issue of education which were lost among the mud-slinging and negative campaigning.
The race between these two long-time politicians with the ability to raise massive amount of campaign funds was close until the end. With D'amato repeatedly citing Schumer's missed votes in Congress and Schumer calling the senator an untrustworthy liar, the race featured more character attacks and name-calling than issues. Nevertheless, education emerged as an important issue in the campaign, helping Schumer win over teachers and women and giving D'amato a competitive edge in the campaign. The race appeared to be a toss-up, but a late development involving D'amato insulting Schumer with a vulgar personal slur was enough to give Schumer a stunning 54%-45% victory over D'amato, finally ending the bitter campaign.
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