The 1998 United States Senate election in New York took place on November 3, 1998 along with elections to the United States Senate in other states as well as elections to the United States House of Representatives and various state and local elections. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Al D'Amato was running for re-election to a fourth term, but lost to Chuck Schumer in what was considered by many to be the "high[est] profile and nastiest" contest of the year.
At the start of 1998, Ferraro had done no fundraising, out of fear of conflict of interest with her job hosting the CNN program Crossfire, but was nonetheless perceived as the front-runner by virtue of her name recognition; indeed, December and January polls had her 25 percentage points ahead of Green in the race and even further ahead of Schumer. Unlike her previous campaigns, Ferraro's family finances never became an issue in 1998. However, she lost ground during the summer, with Schumer catching her in the polls by early August and then soon passing her. Schumer, a tireless fundraiser, outspent her by a five-to-one margin, and Ferraro failed to establish a political image current with the times. In the September 15, 1998, primary, she was beaten soundly by Schumer with a 51 percent to 26 percent margin. Unlike the bitter 1992 Democratic senatorial primary, this contest was not divisive, and Ferraro and third-place finisher Green endorsed Schumer at a unity breakfast the following day.
During the campaign, D'Amato attempted to brand Schumer as a diehard liberal, while Schumer accused D'Amato of being a liar. When D'Amato's first strategy didn't work, D'Amato attacked his opponent's attendance record as a member of Congress, which Schumer refuted.
Late in the campaign, D'Amato called Schumer a "putzhead" in a private meeting with Jewish supporters ("putz" is Yiddish for penis, and can be slang for "fool"). The senator later apologized.
Though D'Amato was effective in obtaining federal government funds for New York State projects during his Senate career, he failed to capitalize on this in the election. Also, Schumer was a tenacious fund-raiser and was aggressive in his attacks. The candidates spent $30 million during the race.
The race was not close with Schumer defeating the Incumbent D'Amato by just over 10%. D'Amato did win a majority of New York's counties, but his wins were in less populated areas. Schumer' win is attributed to strong performance in New York City. Schumer also performed well in heavily populated upstate cities, like Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and Albany. Schumer was sworn in on January 3, 1999.