Javits faces challenges from left, right
New York — The suspense is over -- but the battle has just begun. It's official -- US Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R) of New York will seek a fifth term.
In one of the biggest "cliffhangers" in New York political history, Senator Javits said at a Feb. 25 press conference here that his decision to run again was based on "a lot of heart, a lot of time, and a lot of emotion."
Moments before the announcement, the crowd of staffers, political allies, and well wishers was gloomy -- so great was the speculation that he would not run, fueled in part by the senator's own remarks over the weekend.
But after he uttered the words, "I feel I cannot walk away now," the atmosphere in the Biltmore Hotel's crystal-chandeliered music room suddenly changed; and with the words "I declare that I am a candidate for the US senate," cheers rang through the hall.
Mr. Javits may face tough opposition in both the Republican primary and a general election. US Rep. Jack Kemp (R) of New York, the former professional football quarterback, is Mr. Javits's most formidable potential primary opponent.Mr. Kemp could not be immediately reached for comment about the senator's decision to run, but he has said many time he "does not rule out" a primary challenge.
The decision by Senator Javits to run, many political analysts here say, will only delay Mr. Kemp's announcement. If the senator had decided to bow out, Mr. Kemp might have announced his bid as early as this week. Even former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had said he would consider running if Mr. Javits did not.
During the past two decades, Senator Javits is credited with spearheading major civil rights, housing, and college student loan program legislation.
A phemonenal vote-getter ever since he was elected New York State attorney general in 1954, the crusty, generally even-tempered Republican stalwart trounced Ramsey Clark, his Democratic opponent in 1974, his most recent Senate race.
Although Senator Javits, a product of Manhattan's teeming turn-of-the-century Lower East Side immigrant mecca, has won the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike, he has not been without his detractors -- and they have grown in number in recent years. Some Republicans, especially from the conservative strongholds in the northern and western part of the Empire State, increasingly have criticized the senator's alleged preoccupation with national and foreign affairs at the expense of his New York State constituency.
Brooklyn County Republican leader George L. Clark and many other party members have spoken out vigorously of late against the senator's liberal voting record at a time when the nation's voters seem to be in a much more conservative mood. Still others are concerned about his age; the senator will turn 76 in a few months.
Ironically, his potential primary foe, Representative Kemp, has refrained from attacking the senator on the basis of age. Mr. Kemp has not hesitated to chastise the senator's spending proclivities, however.
Mr. Javits will be running for what has become known as New York's "Jewish seat." New York is said to have more Jews than anywhere in the world outside Israel. It is interesting to note, however, that many prominent Jewish leaders here say the Jewish community is far from united behind Senator Javits.
An estimated 90 percent of the state's more than 2 million Jews are Democrats , an apparent handicap to Mr. Javits, a Republican. However, if past history is any measure, the "crossover" vote to the senator will be substantial in a general election.
On the Democratic side, anticipated candidates John V. Lindsay, former mayor of New York City, and former city consumer affairs commissioner Bess Myerson are expected to challenge announced candidate Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman for the nomination. Miss Holtzman holds a substantial lead in recent polls over Mr. Lindsay and Miss Myerson.