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A longtime champion of the rights of the poor has been enlisted in another arduous struggle: to reclaim control of the State Senate from the Republicans. Liz Krueger, associate director of the Community Food Resource Center, has thrown her hat into the ring to run for the Senate seat on Manhattan’s East Side.

To do it she’ll have to beat incumbent Roy Goodman, a moderate pro-choice Republican who has held sway for the last 32 years in the 26th District, which stretches from 14th to 96th streets. Goodman, heir to the Ex-Lax fortune, is also the New York County Republican Chair. He’s won his last two races handily, trouncing Democrat Robert J. Bellinson with 63 percent of the vote in 1996 and 56 percent in 1998.

But Krueger, well known for her work in social services, and loved by reporters for her deft delivery of pithy barbs against city and state welfare policies, may have a good shot at the seat. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district nearly two to one–and last year, upstart Eva Moskowitz trumped a well-funded Republican to win the neighborhood’s City Council seat.

Krueger made her decision to go from policy wonk to politician in the beginning of May, after state Senate democrats, including former Manhattan City Councilman Tom Duane, asked her to help close the narrow gap between the parties.

Even out of the office, Krueger knows that the label of welfare rights activist will be hard to shake in a run on the tony East Side, where poverty is not a primary concern. “I’m not at all uncomfortable with my record,” she said. “But I’d rather reflect the whole host of issues I’m interested in.”

She hopes her run will give her a chance to support other issues in social services, health and education. Part of her decision to run stems from the realization that many of these policy decisions don’t come from City Hall but from Albany, where, she believes, the city often gets short shrift.

“When push comes to shove on big picture, big budget issues it gets decided in Albany,” Krueger said. “New York City ought to have more authority over what happens to us in rent regulation, education and our tax base.” Already in campaign mode, she has taken a leave of absence from the Community Food Resource Center, where she has worked for the last 15 years.

For his part, Goodman scoffed at the new challenge: “The Democrats have been trying to [take back the state Senate] for the last 25 years without success. Every race I run, I run full scale, no matter who my opponent is.”

But Democrats will watch this race closely. Hillary Clinton’s run for the Senate will probably boost Democratic turnout. They’re also banking that Nassau County rage at Republicans over poor fiscal management will hold on until November, when they also hope to win seats in other city races like Krueger’s.

“It’s very important that we take the State Senate,” Duane said. “Rather than having Democrats in place to stop terrible things from going through, we could advance an agenda.”

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