BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) _ For the first time since she began exploring a possible run for the Senate from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton has been greeted by protesters carrying ``Carpetbagger Go Home'' signs.

With about three dozen demonstrators shouting from across the street outside a Lockheed Martin plant she had visited just outside Binghamton, Mrs. Clinton told reporters Wednesday that such protests were simply a ``fact of political life.''

Asked why she was she had chosen the state for her possible Senate run, she said: ``New York really is the Empire State and is a state that is on the cutting edge of where we're going in the future.''

Mrs. Clinton, born in Illinois and a former first lady of Arkansas, has never lived or worked in New York.

Inside the plant, she told about 40 employees, handpicked by company officials for a discussion with Mrs. Clinton about job creation and other economic issues, that the nation has been so successful ``because of people who have been willing to try new things.''

``There are too many people locked into old thinking. ... We are all such prisoners of our past,'' the first lady said.

Her impromptu news conference outside the plant reflected how seriously Mrs. Clinton is taking the Senate race. Her advisers have been encouraging such interaction with the media as she travels across the state.

While the subject of Mrs. Clinton's possible candidacy never came up during the almost one-hour question-and-answer session with the plant employees, it did demonstrate a lacking in her high-tech expertise. When one worker asked her why the federal government wasn't doing more to advance mag lev technology, she responded, ``Could you tell me what that technology is?''

Mag lev, short for magnetic levitation, can be used to reduce the friction of rail systems.

It was Mrs. Clinton's 11th visit to New York this year and her first since announcing Friday she would form an exploratory committee to continue preparations for the Senate race her advisers expect her to enter.

The race could pit Mrs. Clinton against Republican New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who formed an exploratory committee in April.

The first lady's latest New York foray continued Wednesday evening with a fund-raiser for Rep. Maurice Hinchey at a Binghamton hotel.

While about 300 people attended the fund-raiser for the Democratic congressman, a dozen or so protesters were outside and office building windows overlooking the hotel were adorned with several anti-Clinton signs. One read: ``Hillary Clinton is not qualified.''

Marsha Berry, a spokeswoman for the first lady, said the protesters ``seemed more coordinated'' than during past appearances by the first lady in New York.

Mrs. Clinton then flew to New York City for a $5,000-a-person dinner organized by financial writer Andrew Tobias at a private home. The event, aimed at gay and lesbian campaign contributors, was expected to raise at least $200,000 for the Democratic National Committee.