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Schumer, Chuck 1950–

Schumer, Chuck 1950–

PERSONAL:

Born November 23, 1950, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Abraham and Selma Schumer; married Iris Weinshall, 1980; children: Jessica Emily, Alison. Education: Harvard University, A.B. (magna cum laude), 1971, LL.D, 1974. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES:

Office— U.S. Senate, 313 Hart Senate Bldg., Washington, DC 20515-0001; and Ste. 17-02, 757 3rd Ave., New York, NY, 10017.

CAREER:

Admitted to New York State Bar, 1975. Office of U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, member of staff, 1973; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, New York, NY, associate, 1974; New York State Assembly, Albany, member, 1975-80, Chairman of Subcommittee on City Management and Governance, 1977, Chairman of Committee on Oversight and Investigation, 1979; U.S, Congress, Washington, DC, member from 16th New York District, 1981-85, member from 10th (now 9th) New York District, 1985-98; U.S. Senate, member from New York, 1998—. Member of board of directors, New York Philharmonic.

MEMBER:

Jewish War Veterans, B'nai Brith, Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Herbert Tenzer Award for public service, Five Towns Jewish Council, 1995; Criminal Justice legislative award, New York State Bar Association, 1999; Leadership in Government award, Columbia University Business School, 1999; Travers J. Bell Memorial Award of Distinction, New York District Economic Education Foundation, Securities Industry, Association, 1999; Public Policy Achievement Award, American Cancer Society, 2000; Sound Guardian Award, New York Audobon and Conservation Industry Council of Westchester, 2002.

WRITINGS:

(With Daniel Squadron)Positively American: Winning Back the Middle-Class Majority One Family at a Time, Rodale Books (Emmaus, PA), 2007, published as Positively American: How the Democrats Can Win in 2008, Rodale Books (Emmaus, PA), 2008.

SIDELIGHTS:

New York Senator Chuck Schumer is known for overcoming odds. In 1998, he won his seat in the Senate from Republican Alfonse D'Amato, who had held the seat for eighteen years. "Chuck Schumer has grown into a full-blown political powerhouse," wrote New York Times contributor Eric Alterman. "He racked up a 2004 re-election victory in which he received seventy-one percent of the vote, winning every county but one. Two years later, as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Schumer helped organize and oversee the party's takeover of the Senate." In addition, he has helped engineer the career of former assistant Anthony Weiner, making him a possible candidate to succeed Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York. "Not bad," Alterman concluded, "for a guy consistently overshadowed by the woman politely referred to as New York's ‘junior senator’"—former First Lady and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Schumer was born and grew up in New York City. He attended Harvard University, completing his undergraduate education with a bachelor's degree in 1971 and continuing in Harvard's law school, finishing his J.D. in 1974. Although he was briefly associated with the prominent New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, he quickly found his calling in the field of politics and, in 1975, at the age of twenty-four began a career as a New York state legislator—one of the youngest people ever to sit in that body. In 1980, he ran for and won the House seat of Representative Elizabeth Holzman, who was challenging D'Amato for a Senate seat. He was twenty-nine years old.

"For the past two and a half decades," declared the author of a Schumer biography appearing on the U.S. Senate Web site, "Chuck Schumer has been a leader on national issues and a tireless fighter for New York. For his efforts, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle called Chuck ‘an accomplished, far-sighted legislator,’ while the New York Times wrote that Chuck ‘is a more serious lawmaker with more rooted values, sounder policy positions and a deeper commitment to the common good.’" Among his many accomplishments as Congressman and Senator are a federal ban on assault weapons; the Violence Against Women Act, which protects women against domestic abuse; and the federal Victims Compensation Act, which pays compensation to the families of those killed or injured in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Schumer's greatest triumph, however, came during the election season of 2006, when he served as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. At that time, Republicans had controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate for twelve years. Schumer was one of the planners who devised and launched the strategy that enabled the Democrats to retake both the House and the Senate. "In an election year that offers Democrats a target-rich environment," wrote New York magazine contributor Ryan Lizza in an interview with Schumer about six and a half months before the elections, "no goal is more coveted than that of reclaiming the upper chamber of Congress. Democrats are poised to take back governor's mansions scattered from coast to coast, but those races … will have almost no impact on Bush or his agenda. The party needs a net gain of fifteen seats to regain the House of Representatives, and while that is starting to look less impossible than it did just a few months ago, deftly gerrymandered districts serve as powerful structural impediments to a Democratic takeover." The end result, however, was a victory for the Democrats, who won the Senate with a small majority.

It was also a victory for Schumer. "His bare-knuckle savvy and noodgy relentlessness," declared Chris Smith in New York magazine, "… paid historic national dividends for the party. ‘The Democrats obviously won big in the House, but there was no Gingrich or Rove behind it—no guru,’ a Democratic political consultant says. ‘Sure, Rahm Emanuel was in charge, and he did a good job, but Bush won the House for the Democrats more than Rahm did. The Senate, though? That was all Chuck.’" "Nearly every one of Schumer's moves worked," Smith concluded. "Even he was surprised. ‘We pulled an inside straight,’ he says."

In Positively American: Winning Back the Middle-Class Majority One Family at a Time, Schumer's account of his successes—and the challenges facing Democrats in the final years of the Bush administration—the senator recognizes that the 2006 electoral victories were due less to Democratic popularity than to anti-Iraq War sentiment and disgust with perceived Republican malfeasance. Positively American, stated Michiko Kakutani in the International Herald Tribune, "amplifies these views while laying out a series of concrete proposals for winning back the middle class."

Schumer explains his approach to politics as it has evolved over thirty years of public service by imagining a middle-class New York City family: Joe and Eileen Bailey. The senator states that he is guided in his decisions by picturing how he can make life better for these imaginary constituents. Then, said Jill Ortner in her Library Journal review of the volume, Schumer "spells out his ‘50% Solution,’ a guide to winning back the middle class for the Democratic Party." The points that will make life better for the Baileys, Vanessa Bush declared in her Booklist review, include raising math and reading scores by increasing federal spending on schools; and creating programs designed to "reduce illegal immigration and encourage legal immigration by creating a biometric national employment card, reduce dependency on foreign oil, and lower cancer mortality." The senator's work, Kakutani concluded, "provide[s] Schumer's party with at least the beginnings of a credible blueprint for change and renewal."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Positively American: Winning Back the Middle-Class Majority One Family at a Time, p. 46.

Library Journal, April 15, 2007, Jill Ortner, "The New American Story," p. 103.

National Review, August 8, 2005, "The Inquisitor: Charles Schumer, Leader of the Anti-Bush Crusade," p. 22.

National Right to Life News, December 2006, "Back to Basics," p. 3.

New Republic, April 2, 2007, Martin Peretz, "Half Full," p. 64.

New York, November 8, 2004, Jennifer Senior, "See Chuck Run. And Run. And Run. And Run: But Where Is He Going," p. 39; April 10, 2006, Ryan Lizza, "The Bush-Cheney Era Ends Here: If Chuck Schumer Can Make His Dream of a Democratic-Controlled Senate Come True," p. 40; November 20, 2006, Chris Smith, "The Chutzpah Mandate: How Chuck Schumer and Eliot Spitzer, Both Grating, Obsessive Perfectionists Who Don't Much Like Each Other, Finally Gave Dems a Victory," p. 20; February 12, 2007, Elspeth Reeve, "Happy Family: Hillary Clinton Throws Chuck Schumer a Book Party. Thirty Minutes Later, All the Guests Were Still Hungry for Attention," p. 14.

ONLINE

International Herald Tribune Online, January 29, 2007,http://www.iht.com/ (October 27, 2007), Michiko Kakutani, review of Positively American.

New York Daily News Online, May 4, 2007,http://www.nydailynews.com/ (October 27, 2007), Elizabeth Benjamin, "Knickerbocker Addition/Departure."

New York Post Online, January 29, 2007,http://www.nypost.com/ (October 27, 2007), Cindy Adams, "New Book's Positively Chuck."

New York Times Online, April 22, 2007,http://www.nytimes.com/ (October 27, 2007), Eric Alterman, "Lives of the Democrats."

U.S. Senate Web site,http://schumer.senate.gov/ (October 27, 2007), author biography.

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