Dartmouth alumni may face off in N.Y. election
By Blaze Joel, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, March 30, 2012
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ’88, D-N.Y., will likely face Republican challenger Wendy Long ’82 in the New York general election this November. As an incumbent, Gillibrand locked up the Democratic Party’s nomination early in the process, but Long has not yet officially gained the Republican bid.
Long received the nomination from New York’s Conservative Party and won a plurality of votes at the Republican Party convention held in March, according to an article in The Empire, a political website run by New York Public Radio. In order to receive the official Republican nomination, however, Long must win a majority of votes in the June 26 primary. Long, a Manhattan attorney originally from New Hampshire, faces Rep. Bob Turner, R-N.Y., and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos in the primary contest, but the Conservative Party backing and a 47.4 percent vote in her favor at the convention make her the clear front-runner in the race, according to The Empire.
Long only entered the race in February but gained experience working in the Senate for former Sens. Gordon Humphrey, R-N.H., and Bill Armstrong, R-Colo., soon after graduating from the College, according to her campaign website. Long also served under Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Long later practiced law at Kirkland & Ellis, but left the firm to help build the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, now known as the Judicial Crisis Network. The goal of the organization is “to promote public education about the proper role of the judiciary under the American Constitution,” according to her website.
Long’s platform supports the views of congressional Republicans, according to her website. In a statement titled “Why I’m Running,” Long refers to the policies of Democrats like President Barack Obama and Gillibrand — notably the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the national debt and the administration’s energy policy — as “intolerable.”
“She’s clearly an ideologue,” Ronald Shaiko, director of the Policy Research Shop and associate director for curricular and research programs at the Rockefeller Center, said. “That’s definitely something that Gillibrand can use against her.”
Gillibrand is originally from Albany, N.Y. and has lived in New York state for most of her life. After serving as an attorney, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as special counsel to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo during the Clinton administration, Gillibrand was tapped to fill the senate seat vacated by now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009.
If she wins November’s election, Gillibrand would serve her first full term in the Senate. In her time as a senator, Gillibrand was a key figure in several important pieces of legislation, most notably the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the 9/11 Health Care Bill, according to her website.
The incumbent senator holds liberal positions on most social issues, including same-sex marriage and reproductive rights, but also supports more centrist economic policies, such as her “Made in America” job creation agenda, which focuses on bringing manufacturing jobs back to New York.
New York resident Mason Cole ’13, a Democrat and former intern for Gillibrand, said that he thinks Long’s hardline ideological stances will hurt her in the November election.
“The big issue for New Yorkers is getting someone who is willing to reach across the aisle,” he said. “Gillibrand has proven that she can do this.”
Republicans are not whole-heartedly supporting Long over Gillibrand, according to students interviewed by The Dartmouth.
“I would probably support Gillibrand,” Megan Hassett ’15, a Republican from New York, said. “She’s done a good job representing her constituents.”
Hassett said that she would not support Long because she feels Long will focus too much on socially conservative issues, such as limiting access to abortion and birth control, rather than on economic issues like job creation.
“Long kind of scares me,” she said. “I definitely appreciate her values, but what we need right now is not what she’s offering. I want to be able to go back to New York after I graduate and get a job — that’s what matters, not access to birth control.”
Cole, however, said he believes that Long “has been trying to avoid the crucial issues of reproductive rights for women and has been steering her campaign away from it” despite congressional GOP focus on such topics.
Shaiko said he believes that a Long-Gillibrand race will likely turn negative and gloss over policy issues in favor of attempts at character assassination.
“Wendy Long is formidable in the sense that she’s good on her feet, can debate well and can push buttons that other people can’t,” he said. “She comes out of the advocacy world, so she knows how to play that game.”
Cole said he supports Gillibrand because of the positive impact she has made on New York, including the 9/11 Health Care Bill and her attempts to control insider trading.
“Long’s opposition to [Supreme Court Justice Sonia] Sotomayor and statements on Supreme Court cases, like Roe v. Wade, will show New Yorkers that she is putting politics above what’s best for the country and for her constituents,” he said.
Shaiko said that Long’s radical views could drive away potential voters.
“Barring any campaign catastrophes, I can’t see Gillibrand losing,” Shaiko said.
Shaiko also said that Gillibrand’s fundraising advantage and Obama’s projected win in New York in the 2012 presidential election will make the race relatively one-sided.
“You can’t get much bluer than New York is,” he said.
While at Dartmouth, Gillibrand and Long were both active on campus. Gillibrand was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and Phi Beta Kappa honor society, graduating magna cum laude. Long was one of the original staff members of The Dartmouth Review, along with conservative pundits Dinesh D’Souza ’83 and Laura Ingraham ’85. Although Long graduated in 1982, she remained a member of The Review’s board of trustees for a number of years.
Shaiko said that the current 112th Congress includes one of the highest proportions of Dartmouth alumni in history.
“Dartmouth has, for a long time, contained leaders in politics and policy,” Cole said. “It shows that we are leaders not only of this country, but of the world. I am proud to see so many Dartmouth alums in the policy field.”