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GOP's Blakeman rips Obama, nearly ignores Gillibrand

Senate GOP candidate Bruce Blakeman leaves a press

Senate GOP candidate Bruce Blakeman leaves a press conference on January 27, 2010. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

COLONIE, N.Y. - Republican Bruce Blakeman, making a run for U.S. Senate, Sunday attacked President Barack Obama in a speech to the state Conservative Party but barely mentioned his opponent, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Blakeman, a former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, attacked Obama's push for health care reform, the federal stimulus program and new tactics to combat terrorism. He grew emotional recalling the death of his nephew in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Blakeman is seeking to defeat Gillibrand, a Democrat named by Gov. David A. Paterson to fill the seat vacated when Hillary Rodham Clinton became secretary of state.

Without mentioning Gillibrand by name, Blakeman criticized her alleged support of Obama's call for hiking taxes on banks and restricting their investment decisions. He noted 42,000 jobs had been lost in financial services in the past 18 months and that the industry provides 20 percent of New York's revenue.

Blakeman said Obama's proposals "will kill a good part of the industry . . . We have a senator who's for that," he said, referring to Gillibrand. "She thinks it's a good idea to attack our No. 1 industry."

Gillibrand aide Matt Canter shot back that she "is working to change the bank proposal to encourage banks to lend to small businesses." Under her proposal, financial institutions that make more loans to entrepreneurs would pay less in fees.

Blakeman also charged that Gillibrand supports health care legislation that would add $1 billion to New York's $7.4-billion budget deficit because of lower Medicaid reimbursement.

"Someone is not fighting for our interests in Washington," Blakeman said. "We need a fighter. We need someone who is going to stand up."

Health care reform backed by Gillibrand would provide coverage to 2.7 million uninsured New Yorkers, reduce taxes on small businesses and lower costs for residents, her aide said.

Following Blakeman to the rostrum at the hotel in Colonie, an Albany suburb, was former hedge-fund manager Harry Wilson, who is mulling a run for state comptroller.

Wilson, who lives in Westchester County, was pointed in his criticism of incumbent Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a former assemblyman from Great Neck.

Wilson, citing his experience on Wall Street and work for the federal panel that bailed out the U.S. automakers, derided DiNapoli as "the appointed comptroller."

DiNapoli was elected comptroller by the legislature in 2007 after the resignation of Alan Hevesi. DiNapoli campaign aide Mark Benoit responded that Wilson "doesn't understand the responsibilities of the comptroller's office." Benoit said DiNapoli had warned state leaders about overspending and saved taxpayers more than $1 billion via audits.

Wilson appeared to support DiNapoli's skepticism about replacing his sole authority for the state pension fund with a board appointed by state leaders. Wilson said, "I support a sole trustee . . . the voters need to have accountability."

Conservatives were expected today to hear from Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who is exploring a bid for governor.

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