Singer John Hall Targets N.Y. GOP Lawmaker
FISHKILL, N.Y. (AP) _ For a dozen years, upstate New Yorkers’ view of Republican Rep. Sue Kelly could be summed up in a song _ the 1970s pop tune ``Still the One.″
This election year, a few Democrats, including singer-songwriter John Hall who penned the tune, are looking to unseat the six-term congresswoman elected as part of the 1994 Republican revolution.
Hall, a 57-year-old former county legislator, has injected some celebrity sizzle into the contest. Singers Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne have held fundraisers. A fundraising concert featuring Rosanne Cash and Steve Earle is in the works for August. Marquee music names such as rocker Bruce Springsteen and producer Clive Davis have contributed to Hall’s campaign.
Hall, who co-wrote the song and recorded it with his band Orleans in 1976, once demanded that President Bush’s re-election campaign stop using the tune at rallies in 2004, claiming the Republicans never got permission.
Today, he is taking his politics one step farther, stressing universal health care and energy independence in his campaign for the House seat. He scoffs at Kelly’s reputation for being a moderate in her party.
``Sue Kelly will not stand up to the people in power _ when they need her, she’s a reliable vote,″ Hall said.
Kelly, 69, has long been viewed as a good match for a district that encompasses the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the lush Hudson Valley mountains and bucolic towns. She is a moderate Republican who supports tax cuts but has been willing to irk her party’s conservative leadership on issues such as abortion rights and the environment.
President Bush carried the district with 53 percent in 2004.
Democrats are guardedly optimistic about their prospects. The creeping suburbanization of the region, with New York City residents moving north in pursuit of more affordable homes and better schools, has made the district more Democratic in recent years.
Also, Democrats across the ballot are likely to get a boost from strong showings by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer, who are heavily favored to win in November.
Judy Aydelott is also among the Democrats trying to oust Kelly. A 64-year-old lawyer whose opposition to the Iraq war initially fueled her involvement, Aydelott is a lifelong Republican who switched parties just three years ago.
That has led some hardcore Democrats to discount her or question her motives. But Aydelott insists she is a better fit for the district than the more liberal Hall and would present a tougher challenge to Kelly in the general election.
``Like it or not, this is still a Republican district, and the person who beats Sue Kelly has got to have crossover appeal,″ Aydelott said. ``It’s the moderate Republican woman who will cross over, and I believe I have the background and the personality to appeal to them.″
Kelly has a major financial advantage with $1.2 million cash on hand _ more than her rivals combined. Aydelott had $344,344, Hall $220,835 and Democrat Ben Shuldiner, founder and principal of Brooklyn’s High School for Public Service, had $111,816, according to the latest reports.
Other Democratic candidates were far short on financial backing.
Kelly’s Web site boasts of her bringing a steady flow of federal money to the district, including millions for road improvements and smaller grants for local schools and senior centers. She also is banding with area Democrats on important local issues, such as advocating for a federal safety review of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.
Kelly spokesman Kevin Callahan said the congresswoman was declining interviews about the race until after the Sept. 12 primary. Ed Patru of the National Republican Congressional Committee said Kelly was well-positioned to win re-election.
``The atmosphere is tough out there, but Sue Kelly has done everything right for her district,″ Patru said. ``And in terms of campaign resources, the Democrats are going to be coming out of the primary with either a penniless musician or a broke lawyer. That’s not a good position to be in six weeks before the general election.″