Pirro Won't Give Up Plans to Challenge Clinton

Republican Jeanine Pirro said Friday she is staying in the race against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, despite pressure from some leaders of her own party to abandon her struggling campaign.

"I said from the beginning I am running for the United States Senate. I am a candidate for the United States Senate," Pirro said after emerging from a two-hour meeting with Gov. George Pataki. She gave no details of the discussion.

Speculation that the Westchester County district attorney might quit the race has been running high since Tuesday, when state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, the Legislature's top Republican, said she should give up her Senate bid and run instead for New York attorney general.

Independent polls have shown the Democratic former first lady well ahead of Pirro and other potential GOP challengers in her bid for a second term.

The Pirro campaign has struggled since it began on Aug. 8 and has had trouble raising money. The state Conservative Party has balked at her support for abortion and gay rights. No Republican running statewide in New York has won without Conservative Party backing since 1974.

"Clearly the only person who doesn't know that the Pirro for Senate race is over is Jeanine Pirro," said Michael Long, state Conservative Party chairman.

Pirro insisted her campaign is going well, despite the recent doubts raised by Bruno and others.

"We've got tremendous support, there's a lot of enthusiasm," she said. She added that she did not feel slighted by suggestions that she run for attorney general, a job Democrat Eliot Spitzer is leaving to run for governor.

Other Republicans seeking to challenge Clinton include former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer and a little-known tax attorney, William Brenner. New York lawyer Edward Cox, a son-in-law of President Nixon, halted his campaign after Pataki endorsed Pirro in October.

Although there has been speculation that Clinton will run for the presidency in 2008, she has not stated any intention to run.

Pirro's early campaign has been noticeable for its slow start in fundraising — less than $440,000 by the end of September — and some awkward moments.

At her kickoff announcement, she lost a page of her speech and endured an embarrassing 30-second gap as aides scrambled to find it. She tried to joke about it later, but even that came out wrong.

"Was it my best day? Absolutely not," she said. "Am I better than that? Absolutely not."