SENATOR POTHOLE VERSUS
Alphonse D'Amato v. Charles Schumer, U.S. Senate,
New York, 1998
Incumbent Republican Senator Alphonse D'Amato and his Democratic challenger, Representative Charles Schumer, had pet names for each other. D'Amato called Schumer a putzhead—a Yiddish word whose literal meaning cannot be printed here because this book is meant for all ages. But its common usage means "fool" or "idiot."
For his part, Schumer repeatedly labeled D'Amato an untrustworthy liar. Here we have a couple of politicians who have no problem saying what is on their minds. But it is actually kind of mild for the fireworks that this race caused in New York in 1998. It has been described as a South Bronx brawl and the dirtiest campaign New York has seen in decades.
"This is probably the meanest campaign in the country," said Peter Jennings of ABC News, late in 1998. Over at CBS, Dan Rather called the race "down and dirty, negative and nasty." And not to be left out, Tom Brokaw of NBC said, "One of the closest and nastiest races of all is going on in the state of New York."1
It was also the most expensive race in the senate in 1998. Approximately $40 million was spent ($25 million by D'Amato and Republican groups and $15 million by Schumer and Democratic groups), most of it on blisteringly negative TV ads.
The two men were polar opposites politically. Schumer was a liberal with a strong record on gun control, abortion rights, and environmental protection. D'Amato was a conservative Republican, though moderate on some so