Clinton’s resume was unique among First Ladies and among senators. After meeting her husband, Bill, at Yale Law School, she spent her early career as an advocate for children’s rights and was named to the board of the Legal Services Corporation. During Bill’s presidency, she took an active role in promoting the administration’s healthcare policy and used her position to bring attention to children’s rights and family law issues. Despite the fact that her husband was currently under impeachment for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, New York Democrats approached Clinton about running for senate near the end of his term. She announced her candidacy after purchasing property in Chappaqua, New York and waiting for the impeachment proceedings to end.
Clinton visited every county of New York in an effort to stave off the inevitable charge that she was a “carpetbagger.” Recruited to run in part because her “star power” could counteract that of her presumptive Republican opponent, New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani, Clinton’s chances improved when Giuliani dropped out of the race due to health issues and controversies around the recent dissolution of his marriage. His replacement, Rick Lazio, raised tens of millions of dollars but ultimately garnered only 43 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 55.
Although the news was overshadowed nationally by the presidential election, which was too close to call and would not be decided until December, Clinton’s election received equal billing with the presidential saga on the front page of the New York Times. Though she had been a public, political figure for much of her life, winning a campaign for federal office marked an important moment in her career. After one term in the senate, she would vie for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, fighting a hard but unsuccessful campaign against Barack Obama. She went on to serve as Obama’s Secretary of State and eventually win the nomination, becoming the first woman in a major party to do so, before winning the popular vote but losing the 2016 election to Donald Trump.