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Gillibrand meets with minority caucus in Bay Shore

For Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the meeting with local black and Hispanic elected officials was part of a busy day visiting Long Island constituents as she faces a potentially grueling primary campaign.

For the new Long Island Black & Hispanic Caucus, Saturday's meeting in Bay Shore was "historic," according to Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood). "It's the first time a person running for statewide office has sat down collectively with the elected officials of color to discuss our needs," he said.

About 14 of the caucus' 23 members - comprised of officials from village to state level - met with the Democratic senator from New York at the Family Service League offices.

Gillibrand agreed to support funding requests for redevelopment projects, job creation and health initiatives, Ramos said, and to twice-a-year meetings with the caucus. "She said she'd be providing support letters and staff toward securing that funding for our districts."

Gillibrand, appointed to the Senate last year, described the caucus meeting as "very productive."

She wasn't the only one on the caucus' schedule. The caucus is to meet with her possible Senate primary opponent, former Tenn. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. Crossfire between Gillibrand and Ford has become so personal that Democratic state chairman Jay Jacobs recently urged the rivals to focus on policy, not pot shots.

"As far as I can tell, he is unwilling to talk about the issues," said Gillibrand Saturday. "I look forward to a campaign on my record . . . and a debate on the issues."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, whose fierce opposition to undocumented immigrants and ethnically insensitive remarks have put him at odds with some caucus members, would not get her support should he run for governor, said the senator, who supports Gov. David A. Paterson.

Asked if she would support Levy should he opt to run in another statewide race, she replied: "Ask me then."

On immigration, Gillibrand said she supports a "comprehensive approach . . . there's a lot of rhetoric on both sides."

Gillibrand also held public meetings Saturday at the Hempstead Public Library to talk about economic development and at the Sid Jacobson Community Center's 15th Annual Auction for Excellence in East Hills.

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