Hillary Clinton Kicks Off New York Senate Bid for Second Term

Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible presidential run waiting in the wings, launched her bid for a second Senate term by declaring that America's current leadership was failing its people.

"We need a fundamentally new direction," she told more than 400 cheering delegates to the Democratic state convention in Buffalo.

Clinton, who spoke for more than 30 minutes, bashed the Bush administration repeatedly, saying that for the Republican leadership, "It is more important to say mission accomplished than actually accomplishing the mission."

"With hard work, we will take our country back," she promised her fellow Democrats.

Clinton was unanimously selected as the convention's official designee for the party's Senate nomination. Delegates who chanted "Hillary! Hillary!" were delighted with their choice.

"You have stood with me," Clinton said. "And, it has been a privilege to stand up for you in the United States Senate."

Clinton, her husband watching proudly from the audience, repeatedly encouraged the delegates to "stand with me" as she battled to elect Democrats in November. It was a speech geared as much to national issues as state affairs.

While the former president didn't speak at the convention, he got a standing ovation when the former first lady singled him out for a special thank you as "an inspiration, a mentor, a partner."

They hugged briefly when he joined her on stage following her speech that was preceded by an 18-minute video praising her work in the Senate.

Clinton could still face a September primary from an anti-Iraq war activist.

"We have a great national leader here in New York," said fellow New York Sen. Charles Schumer as he nominated "my partner, my friend" for the convention's endorsement.

The former first lady began her convention coronation day with a breakfast for about 700 supporters and delegates at Buffalo's downtown convention center.

Noting the strength of the Democratic statewide ticket this year — it includes state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for governor — Clinton told those at the breakfast they should get ready for an electoral sweep.

"When the dust clears in November, New York is going to have a Democratic government from top to bottom, and we're going to show the rest of the country what that means," Clinton said.

The former first lady did not mention a possible presidential bid, but she did appeal to the hometown crowd, whooping up the Buffalo Sabres overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.

"We're one game away from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Go Sabres!" Clinton shouted to raucous cheering.

On Long Island, Republicans were beginning their own two-day convention on Wednesday, preparing to authorize a primary between former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer and Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland for the Senate nomination. Polls have shown Clinton far ahead of both.

For Democrats at their convention, it was a new era.

"There is no question about it, she came in six years ago and she got the endorsement because she was the first lady," said former state Assemblyman Arthur Kremer, an influential Long Island Democrat. "This time, she's proven that she's worthy of the party's support."

"Everybody thought six years ago she was going to be a dilettante, sit on the side lines and wait for everybody to pat her on the back," Kremer added. "She's turned out to be a hard worker."

Clinton has carefully avoided talking about 2008, saying she is focused completely on 2006, but that didn't stop supporters.

"Let's keep Hillary in the United States Senate and near her next home, the White House," state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told delegates Tuesday.

Clinton is facing a possible Democratic primary in September from anti-Iraq war activist Jonathan Tasini.

Tasini had been working the convention crowd since Monday but conceded he would not win the 25 percent of the convention vote needed to win an automatic spot on the primary ballot. His name was not placed in nomination by delegates at the convention.

Tasini said he would collect the signatures of at least 15,000 Democrats to force a primary.

"There is absolutely no question Hillary Clinton doesn't want a debate on the war," he said.

Clinton, who leads national polls among potential 2008 Democratic presidential contenders, has come under fire from some in the liberal wing of the party for her initial vote to allow the war. Since then, she has been highly critical of President Bush's handling of the war effort, but has refused to join those calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.