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Cooper nears Senate race announcement
Jon Cooper has already penciled in the time and date for a news conference to announce whether he will challenge Kirsten Gillibrand for her Senate seat in next year's Democratic primary: 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24.That's what the Democratic majority leader in the Suffolk County legislature, business executive and happily married gay family man from Lloyd Harbor said over coffee at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington Saturday afternoon. (Inadvertently, and ironically, the liberal Cooper booked himself into the Mayflower just as it was hosting the conservative Federalist Society's lawyers meeting. Cooper said he ran into someone dressed as Thomas Jefferson as he stepped off the elevator.) Cooper, who was in Washington for yet another key dinner meeting with someone he wouldn't identify, said he's 95 percent sure he's going to make the run. He set up an exploratory committee earlier this year. Cooper shrugged off last week's endorsement of Gillibrand by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group. "It's completely understandable," he said, explaining the group tends to endorse incumbents over challengers. Cooper noted he is not an announced candidate yet, And he pointed out that in the 1998 New York senate race, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed three-term Republican Sen. Al D'Amato over his ultimately successful challenger, Chuck Schumer. Besides, he said, he doubts it will change any votes. This morning, when I sent him an e-mail asking about his dinner meeting and whether he was more, or less, than 95 percent sure about a run, he e-mailed back: "The meeting went quite well. I honestly don't know whether I'm more or less than 95 percent sure. Let's just say I'm entering the 'trust but verify' phase. I'm still aiming for a firm decision by the 24th."