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Sen. Charles Schumer (D)

New York

Leadership: Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center Chairman (DPCC)

N/A

schumer.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: 1998, term expires 2016, 3rd term.

Born: November 23, 1950, Brooklyn, NY

Home: Brooklyn, NY

Education: Harvard U., B.A. 1971, J.D. 1974

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Jewish

Family: Married (Iris Weinshall) , 2 children

Democrat Charles Schumer, first elected in 1998, is New York’s senior senator and one of Capitol Hill’s most adept dealmakers as the Senate's third-ranking Democrat. A political chess player who helped his party obtain its Senate majority, he now serves as one of its chief messengers as well as an indispensable policy ally of President Barack Obama’s—all while commanding vast swaths of media attention.

Schumer grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where his father had a small exterminating business. Schumer graduated first in his class at James Madison High School, the alma mater of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman. It’s safe to say that Schumer was interested in politics from the start. He graduated from Harvard College and Law School, and with his law degree fresh in hand in June 1974, he ran for an open New York Assembly seat. He won, at age 23, becoming the state’s youngest Assembly member since Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1980, just before turning 30, he was elected to the U.S. House from an open Brooklyn seat. Through energy, imagination, hard work, and a certain amount of chutzpah, he became a skilled legislator and a politician noted—and sometimes resented—for attracting publicity. Former Senate GOP Leader Bob Dole of Kansas was one of the first, but not the last, to say that the most dangerous place to be in Washington was between Chuck Schumer and a television camera. (He isn't the only Schumer to draw media attention; his cousin's daughter, Amy Schumer, stars in Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer and has made a reputation for her raunchy comedy.)

Schumer got a seat on the Banking Committee, aware of its importance to New York’s financial services industry. He also served on the Judiciary Committee and chaired the Crime Subcommittee. Schumer sponsored the 1994 crime bill that banned assault weapons and shepherded through the House President Bill Clinton’s proposal to add 100,000 police officers across the country. The legislation also created “three strikes” mandatory life terms for repeat violent criminals. Schumer was the House sponsor of the Brady bill, which created waiting periods for handgun purchases and was passed over the strong opposition of the National Rifle Association. Schumer also contributed key provisions to the immigration acts in 1986 and 1990.

The idea of running for statewide office was never far from his mind. In early 1997, Schumer considered seeking the governorship, but incumbent Republican George Pataki’s strong job ratings persuaded Schumer to use his $5 million campaign treasury to run instead against GOP Sen. Alfonse D’Amato. It was by no means obvious that Schumer would win. D’Amato was known for his assiduous constituent service and for his ability to dominate the tabloid wars that are a mainstay of metropolitan New York political campaigns. As the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, he also excelled at raising money. Schumer started off largely unknown outside his district, and he faced serious primary opposition from Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 vice presidential nominee, and Mark Green, the New York City public advocate and D’Amato’s 1986 opponent. By summer, Schumer was leading in polls and was much better financed than his rivals. In September, he won the primary with 51% of the vote to 26% for Ferraro and 19% for Green.

Schumer immediately launched an attack on D’Amato, saying that the incumbent had told “too many lies for too long,” which echoed D’Amato’s earlier criticisms of his opponents as “too liberal for too long.” Schumer maintained that he was tougher on crime than D’Amato, and he emphasized his support of abortion rights and gun regulation. D’Amato concentrated heavily on Schumer’s missed votes while running for the Senate, but the implication that the high-voltage Schumer was lazy was implausible. By mid-October, most of Schumer’s poll leads were within the statistical margin of error. Then, in a closed meeting before a Jewish group, D’Amato called Schumer a “putzhead,” Yiddish slang for “jerk.” When the remark became public, he denied it, before backtracking unconvincingly after his own supporter, former Democratic Mayor Edward Koch, confirmed it. By early November, D’Amato was sagging in the polls. Schumer was the beneficiary of two visits from Clinton and no fewer than four from first lady Hillary Clinton. Although outspent, Schumer won 55%-44%.

In the Senate, Schumer established a solidly liberal voting record. He has been a leading proponent of focusing Democratic efforts on the middle class; he often says his political reference point is an imaginary Long Island couple convinced that politicians devote too much attention to the very rich and very poor. In the aftermath of the Democrats' drubbing at the polls in 2014, Schumer drew massive attention when he gave a National Press Club speech chastizing his party for pushing the Affordable Care Act after getting the $787 billion economic stimulus law through in 2009. "Unfortunately, Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them," Schumer said, making clear that he still backed the health-care law. "We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem—health care reform."

Not a few of his fellow liberals were incensed, pointing out that the law didn't just help lower-income patients. But Schumer also took dead aim at the Washington news media, arguing it has been far too eager to report bad news. "Republicans will continue to paint government as the enemy, and the media will continue to highlight government failures, because they make for better copy than government success. That leaves the job to we Democrats,” Schumer said.

On the Banking Committee, Schumer has been a steadfast ally of Wall Street. He supported the 1999 Gramm-Bliley-Leach bill eliminating the barriers between banks and investment banks, and in 2001, he joined GOP Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas in successfully halving the fees paid by Wall Street firms to the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2002, Schumer played a key role in scuttling a Republican bankruptcy bill by persuading the Senate to pass an amendment that made fines and penalties for attacking abortion clinics not dischargeable in bankruptcy cases; abortion rights opponents were increasingly declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying such fines. Abortion opponents in the House refused to vote for the bill as long as it contained Schumer’s amendment, and the bill died. When it was revived in 2005, Schumer’s abortion amendment was voted down, 53-46, in the Senate, and the bill was ultimately enacted.

He has long opposed moves to toughen regulation of the government-sponsored mortgage institutions, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, citing the rising rate of homeownership and the possibility of increased interest rates. And Schumer also opposed taxing the carried interest income of hedge fund operators, of vital interest to the city’s Financial District.

On the Judiciary Committee, Schumer led the opposition to President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees whom he and liberal lobbying groups judged to be out of the mainstream. Schumer, along with other Democrats, used the filibuster to block the appointment of federal judges who enjoyed majority support, forcing the nominee to earn 60 votes to be confirmed. In 2005, Schumer tried to pin down Supreme Court nominee John Roberts in committee hearings and was one of 22 senators who later voted against him. When Bush nominated Samuel Alito in 2005, Schumer said he was “sad that the president felt he had to pick a nominee likely to divide America.” In 2007, Schumer pounced on the Bush administration’s firings of seven U.S. attorneys around the country and demanded the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Schumer played a major role in shepherding recovery money through Congress after the September 11 attacks. He immediately requested $20 billion in aid for New York, which Bush readily approved. The Bush administration then turned to Schumer to rally support for its centerpiece anti-domestic terrorism law, the USA PATRIOT Act. Schumer has secured federal grants for all manner of projects for New York, ranging from an ambulance for the volunteer fire department in St. Lawrence County to funding for tritium cleanup at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. He also has gotten along well with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; his wife, Iris Weinshall, was Bloomberg’s transportation commissioner from 2002 to 2007. The New York Times reported in January 2013 that Bloomberg mused about recruiting the senator to succeed him at City Hall. Schumer responded by later joking to Bloomberg at a public meeting, “How about you being senator?”

Schumer has been a prodigious fundraiser since his early days in the House. In 2004, his money skills enabled him to raise over $27 million and ward off a serious challenge to his reelection. Constant traveling in upstate New York also made him as well known there as in New York City. Schumer won easily, 71%-24%, exceeding the 67%-31% record set by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1988.

Some speculated that Schumer would run for governor in 2006, but that issue was settled when he accepted Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s appointment as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and got a seat on the Finance Committee to boot. The task ahead looked difficult. The lineup of Senate seats up in 2006 left Republicans with more target seats than Democrats. But Schumer succeeded in persuading Democratic incumbents from states that Bush carried in 2004—Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Bill Nelson of Florida—not to retire. Then he worked on getting strong challengers to Republican incumbents. In Pennsylvania, he aggressively recruited state Treasurer Robert Casey, Jr., son of the late governor known for his strong opposition to abortion rights.

Schumer made a pitch over dinner in London to Claire McCaskill to compete in Missouri, where she had shown some strength in her losing 2004 gubernatorial race. She ran and won. In Virginia, Schumer backed Jim Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran who served as President Ronald Reagan’s Navy secretary, over liberal lobbyist Harris Miller, and Webb won a narrow victory in the primary and went on in the fall to defeat the heavily favored incumbent, Republican George Allen. During the campaign, Schumer wrote a book, Positively American: Winning Back the Middle-Class Majority One Family at a Time, in which he urged Democrats to offer 50% solutions—increase math and reading scores by 50%, cut property taxes by 50%, and reduce illegal immigration by 50%.

Schumer’s success in helping to win a Democratic majority that year prompted Reid to ask him to stay on as head of the DSCC in the 2008 election season. As an inducement, Reid created a leadership position for Schumer as vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, although the new post did not come with a staff and a detailed portfolio. Schumer effectively became the confidential adviser to the hot-tempered and difficult Reid and the mellifluous and steady Majority Whip Dick Durbin. Once again he played a key role in producing winning candidates at election time. All told, Democrats picked up six seats in 2006 and seven in November 2008 while losing none of theirs. A 45-seat minority became a 59-seat majority. Seldom has one senator made such a difference in the partisan composition of the body. And seldom if ever has the No. 3 person in a party’s leadership done as much to determine a major party’s policy stands and political positioning in the Senate. As Republican John Cornyn of Texas said ruefully, but with admiration, “In my opinion, his influence is supreme. He’s everywhere.”

Schumer’s position in New York politics is also paramount. When Hillary Clinton was elected senator in 2000, many thought that she would overshadow Schumer, and the wattage from her celebrity did noticeably irk him at times. But Schumer supported Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and her appointment as secretary of State in the Obama administration made him indisputably New York’s lead senator. When Clinton resigned her Senate seat, and Democratic Gov. David Paterson dithered over choosing a successor, Schumer weighed in on behalf of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand. He then urged Reid to give her choice committee assignments and put her name on numerous press releases. When former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. mulled making the race, Schumer interceded and helped persuade him not to run. As a result, Gillibrand had only desultory primary opposition and won the general election easily. After that, Schumer helped her blossom into a formidable national political player in her own right.

Schumer entered occasionally frets about Obama’s readiness to compromise with Republicans. On Obama’s health care initiative, he supported creating a government-run insurance option, but sensing that it lacked 60 votes, he worked with Republican moderate Olympia Snowe of Maine on a trigger mechanism that would create a public option only if private plans did not meet certain criteria. But those efforts failed to win Republican support, and in September 2009, he dropped it. On the Dodd-Frank overhaul of financial industry regulation, he pushed provisions to entirely fund the Securities and Exchange Commission through fees and fines rather than congressional appropriations and to give stockholders a non-binding vote on executive compensation.

Schumer has a longstanding interest in immigration policy reform, and although a comprehensive bill was not high on Obama’s agenda, he worked in 2009 with Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina establishing agreement on concepts for later legislation, including stronger border and workplace enforcement, a guest worker program and a path to legalization for illegal immigrants in the country.

When immigration moved to the political front burner in 2013, he and Graham were part of a bipartisan, eight-member group that came up with a reworked plan that offered a legalization pathway, a new system for employers in a variety of industries to hire guest workers, and extremely stringent border-security provisions. Schumer sought 70 votes for the measure, and ended up falling short by just two (the entire Democratic caucus backed it along with 14 Republicans). He and other members of the so-called "Gang of Eight" succeeded in building a coalition of interest groups to support the bill that included the Republican-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce. When combined with the backing of agriculture and technology groups, Schumer believed, the Chamber's support would neutralize the furor of far-right conservatives.

It was arguably the most noteworthy bipartisan achievement in a 113th Congress (2013-14) that featured few others of that ilk. But the more-conservative House refused to take up the bill or pass anything that would satisfy the Democratically controlled Senate. As the 114th Congress (2015-16) began, Schumer was urging Republicans not to play politics with Obama's executive action on immigration by refusing to pass a funding bill for the Homeland Security Department. "It seems our Republican colleagues are willing to shut down the government despite the fact that we have such security needs here in this country,” Schumer said in January.

On issues important to New York in recent years, Schumer in February 2010 opposed trying alleged September 11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed anywhere in New York. “My advice to the president is, with a great deal of respect, take New York off your radar screen. Find another location,” he said. He was also the lead sponsor of a bill to compensate September 11 responders for health problems they later encountered. After the December 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., he began talking with National Rifle Association-backed senators, including Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republicans Mark Kirk of Illinois and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, about a bill to strengthen the background-check process prior to gun purchases.

Though he rarely takes a lead position on foreign policy, Schumer did show skepticism about Obama’s 2009 troop increase in Afghanistan, and in May 2010, he was one of 18 senators to vote for an amendment requiring a detailed timetable for troop withdrawals there. A month earlier, he called Obama’s approach to Israel “counterproductive,” although he later defended the president against criticism from 2012 GOP presidential candidates that the White House was insufficiently supportive of the country.

Schumer was up for reelection in 2010, but the outcome was never in doubt. He raised $19 million and clobbered Republican Jay Townsend, the owner of a market research firm, 66%-32%. But he no doubt kept an eye on doings in Nevada, where Reid trailed in polls for months. If Reid had lost, there may well have been a battle between Schumer and Durbin, his housemate and the majority whip, for the top leadership post. But Reid won and the issue became moot.

Two weeks after the election, Reid assigned Schumer more legislative scheduling and communications duties, giving him the opportunity to sharpen his middle-class message. He held a Judiciary subcommittee hearing in April 2012 on Arizona’s restrictive immigration law and promoted Obama’s “Buffett Rule” requiring the wealthy to pay a higher share of their income in taxes. He also taunted Senate Republicans for obstructionism. “Their idea of blocking bills with no fingerprints on them is gone. Everyone sees loud and clear what they’re doing,” he said in February 2012.

But the partisan budget battles sometimes complicated Schumer’s messaging efforts. He said in May 2011 that failing to raise the federal debt limit was “playing with fire,” although conservatives noted that he had voted against earlier debt ceiling increases. When House and Senate negotiators sought a deal on taxes and spending to avoid a so-called “fiscal cliff” in October 2012, Schumer dismissed the idea of a tax code overhaul as “little more than happy talk.” Republicans reacted angrily, and an overhaul never made it into the final legislation. He also reportedly clashed with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., over the potential scope of tax reform.

On top of all his other duties, Schumer is top Democrat on the Rules and Administration Committee, which has enabled him to preside over presidential inaugural ceremonies. He was furious at superstar singer Beyoncé Knowles in January 2013 for lip-synching “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Obama’s second inaugural without informing anyone. With South Dakota’s Tim Johnson announcing his retirement in 2014 and Rhode Island’s Jack Reed expected to become the Armed Services Committee’s top Democrat, Schumer could have led the Banking Committee for his party in 2015. But he passed on the job to concentrate on his leadership duties, letting the less-senior Sherrod Brown of Ohio grab the position.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6542

(202) 228-3027

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 322
Washington, DC 20510-3203

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6542

(202) 228-3027

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 322
Washington, DC 20510-3203

DISTRICT OFFICE

(212) 486-4430

(212) 486-7693

780 Third Avenue Suite 2301
New York, NY 10017-2054

DISTRICT OFFICE

(212) 486-4430

(212) 486-7693

780 Third Avenue Suite 2301
New York, NY 10017-2054

DISTRICT OFFICE

(518) 431-4070

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Leo W. O'Brien Building Room 420
Albany, NY 12207

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(518) 431-4070

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Leo W. O'Brien Building Room 420
Albany, NY 12207

DISTRICT OFFICE

(607) 772-6792

(607) 772-8124

15 Henry Street Suite 100 A-F
Binghamton, NY 13901-2753

DISTRICT OFFICE

(607) 772-6792

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Binghamton, NY 13901-2753

DISTRICT OFFICE

(631) 753-0978

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Melville, NY 11747

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(631) 753-0978

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Melville, NY 11747

DISTRICT OFFICE

(914) 734-1532

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One Park Place Suite 100
Peekskill, NY 10566

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(914) 734-1532

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Peekskill, NY 10566

DISTRICT OFFICE

(585) 263-5866

(585) 263-3173

100 State Street Room 3040
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DISTRICT OFFICE

(585) 263-5866

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DISTRICT OFFICE

(315) 423-5471

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100 South Clinton Street Room 841
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DISTRICT OFFICE

(315) 423-5471

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DISTRICT OFFICE

(716) 846-4111

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130 South Elmwood Avenue Suite 660
Buffalo, NY 14202-2371

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CAMPAIGN OFFICE

60 East 42nd Street Suite 437
New York, NY 10165

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

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Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Meghan Taira
Legislative Director

Veronica Duron
Legislative Assistant

Aerospace

Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Meghan Taira
Legislative Director

Sean Byrne
Legislative Assistant

Scott Gelbman
Legislative Correspondent

Veronica Duron
Legislative Assistant

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Marissa Emanuel
Director of Grants

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Marissa Emanuel
Director of Grants

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Zack Rosenblum
Legislative Assistant

Budget

Anna Taylor
Tax Counsel; Legislative Assistant

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Lane Bodian
Legislative Correspondent

Stacy Ettinger
Chief Counsel

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Oumou Ly
Legislative Correspondent

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Nick Dhimitri
Legislative Assistant

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Meghan Taira
Legislative Director

Veronica Duron
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Morgan Brand
Legislative Aide

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Oumou Ly
Legislative Correspondent

Brian Greer
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Legislative Correspondent

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Sean Byrne
Legislative Assistant

Nick Dhimitri
Legislative Assistant

Scott Gelbman
Legislative Correspondent

Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

Kelsey LaFreniere
Legislative Correspondent

Family

Meghan Taira
Legislative Director

Veronica Duron
Legislative Assistant

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Anna Taylor
Tax Counsel; Legislative Assistant

Robert Gardner
Legislative Correspondent

Foreign

Robert Gardner
Legislative Correspondent

Oumou Ly
Legislative Correspondent

Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

Gambling

Beatrice Pollard
Legislative Correspondent

Govt Ops

Sean Byrne
Legislative Assistant

Marissa Emanuel
Director of Grants

Grants

Sean Byrne
Legislative Assistant

Marissa Emanuel
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Health

Meghan Taira
Legislative Director

Veronica Duron
Legislative Assistant

Morgan Brand
Legislative Aide

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Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

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Lane Bodian
Legislative Correspondent

Zack Rosenblum
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

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Zack Rosenblum
Legislative Assistant

Intelligence

Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Labor

Oumou Ly
Legislative Correspondent

Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

Marissa Emanuel
Director of Grants

Medicare

Meghan Taira
Legislative Director

Veronica Duron
Legislative Assistant

Military

Oumou Ly
Legislative Correspondent

Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

Native Americans

Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

Public Works

Nick Dhimitri
Legislative Assistant

Science

Meghan Taira
Legislative Director

Sean Byrne
Legislative Assistant

Scott Gelbman
Legislative Correspondent

Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

Veronica Duron
Legislative Assistant

Small Business

Anna Taylor
Tax Counsel; Legislative Assistant

Social Security

Robert Gardner
Legislative Correspondent

Tax

Anna Taylor
Tax Counsel; Legislative Assistant

Technology

Sean Byrne
Legislative Assistant

Scott Gelbman
Legislative Correspondent

Telecommunications

Beatrice Pollard
Legislative Correspondent

Trade

Robert Gardner
Legislative Correspondent

Stacy Ettinger
Chief Counsel

Transportation

Sean Byrne
Legislative Assistant

Nick Dhimitri
Legislative Assistant

Scott Gelbman
Legislative Correspondent

Veterans

Brian Greer
Legislative Assistant

Welfare

Meghan Taira
Legislative Director

Veronica Duron
Legislative Assistant

Women

Meghan Taira
Legislative Director

Veronica Duron
Legislative Assistant

** denotes a leadership staffer

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
Charles Schumer
Votes: 3,047,111
Percent: 66.3%
Jay Townsend
Votes: 1,479,724
Percent: 32.21%
2010 PRIMARY
Charles Schumer
Unopposed
2004 GENERAL
Charles Schumer
Votes: 4,769,824
Percent: 71.0%
Howard Mills
Votes: 1,625,069
Percent: 24.0%
2004 PRIMARY
Charles Schumer
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2004 (71%), 1998 (55%), House: 1996 (75%), 1994 (73%), 1992 (89%), 1990 (80%), 1988 (78%), 1986 (93%), 1984 (72%), 1982 (79%), 1980 (77%)

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