Wendy Long won a three-way Republican primary Tuesday to take on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in this fall’s race for the U.S. Senate.
Long, a New York City attorney, defeated Nassau County comptroller George Maragos and U.S. Rep. Bob Turner in a primary election Tuesday notable for low turnout. Long held a double-digit lead with nearly three-quarters of the precincts reporting statewide in unofficial returns.
“Kirsten Gillibrand said she wants more women in politics,” Long told her supporters in New York City. “Tonight we are here to grant her wish.”
Long now faces the daunting task of trying to raise millions of dollars and build statewide name recognition by election day in November. Gillibrand, a three-year incumbent, already has about $10 million in campaign cash.
This will be Gillibrand’s second campaign for the Senate since she was appointed in 2009 to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She won election in 2010 to finish Clinton’s term that ends this year. This time, Gillibrand is running for a full six-year term.
Long has political experience but has never held elected office. She worked in the U.S. Senate, clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and has advocated for conservative judges for the group now known as the Judicial Crisis Network.
Long has run as a staunch conservative. She promoted her support for gun rights, said she opposed same-gender marriage and vowed never to vote to raise the federal debt ceiling. She has already secured the state Conservative Party line, which is considered crucial to Republicans running for statewide office.
“This is a great victory for the grassroots effort of the Onondaga Republican Party,” said Tom Dadey, chairman of the Onondaga County Republican Committee and the first county chairman to endorse Long. “Wendy Long’s message of individual freedom, less government spending, less regulation and her continued fight to reducing our tax burden will continue to resonate with all New Yorkers.”
After months of staking out conservative positions to win support from New York’s Republicans, Long now faces an electorate in which Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2 to 1.
Recent polls have shown Gillibrand leading Long in head-to-head matchups by more than 30 percentage points, though analysts expect the gap to narrow now that Republicans have chosen a candidate.
“It is going to take every break breaking … for Long to even be truly competitive,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.
Though seen as vulnerable when she was appointed in 2009, Gillibrand has built up support and name recognition in her three years in office. Her $10 million in campaign cash this month compared to $112,397 for Long.
Democrats wasted no time attacking the Republican candidate. State Democratic Committee co-chairman Keith Wright in a prepared statement released Tuesday night accused Long of holding “extreme ideological views.”
Gillibrand spokesman Glen Caplin said the senator called Long to congratulate her and “looks forward to running a strong campaign based on her record of fighting hard and delivering as a strong independent voice for New York families.”