The last time I had any dealings with Wendy Long, it was 1986, her name was Wendy Stone and she was press secretary to then-Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R.-N.H.). The Dartmouth graduate very much wanted an article by her boss in the upcoming issue of HUMAN EVENTS and when we could not fit it in, she was, to say the least, disappointed.
That story came to mind Friday evening, as news came that Manhattan litigation attorney and conservative activist Wendy Long received the most votes at the New York State GOP convention for endorsement as the Republican nominee to oppose liberal Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand. Final results from the party conclave showed first-time candidate Long with 47.37 per cent, Nassau County Controller George Maragos 27.36 per cent, and one-term Rep. Bob Turner, 25.28 per cent. With 25 per cent the minimum required to go into the Republican primary June 26.
Without dispute, the major stories are twofold: 1) that in a state in which Republicans failed to win a single statewide office in the nationwide GOP sweep of 2010, the party did manage to have three capable and qualified candidates step up to seek their Senate nod and 2)in a state long known as a haven for moderate-to-liberal Republican leaders, all three Senate contenders were considered strong conservatives on fiscal as well as cultural issues.
But almost as big a story is Long herself, the lone Senate candidate who had neither held nor sought office before and who can be considered a true product of the modern conservative movement. Having been a clerk for former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Ralph K. Winter (a Reagan appointee much-liked by conservatives) and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Long was also chief counsel to the Judicial Crisis Network, a grass-roots group that generated support for George W. Bush’s appointees to the judiciary.
Long is also considered a cinch to get the Senate endorsement later this week from the New York State Conservative Party, which has the third line on the Empire State ballot.
“And Wendy Long was electrifying county party meetings when she addressed them,” historian David Pietrusza, who knows all things New York, told HUMAN EVENTS, “and she was the only Senate candidate to get a standing ovation when she addressed the state convention.”
Pietrusza described the movement behind Long as “a very interesting alliance of committed conservatives along with some Republican ‘establishment’ types.” Her longtime friend, radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, campaigned at her side frequently. Key members of Long’s campaign team include David Catalfamo, onetime communications director for former GOP Gov. George Pataki, and onetime Manhattan Young Republicans President Lynn Krogh, a leader in the movement last year to draft Donald Trump for President. Sources told us that former Colorado State GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams will soon be named as Long’s campaign manager. (When Wadhams was overseeing conservative former Sen. Bill Armstrong’s campaigns in Colorado, the then-Wendy Stone was the senator’s press secretary). 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee Carl Palladino is also actively backing her.
While 71-year-old Bob Turner became a national conservative hero last year when he won the special election for the Brooklyn-Queens seat of former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, many in state GOP circles were stunned he decided to enter the Senate race two weeks ago and only after redistricting pointed to him having to run for the House against another incumbent. As Pietrusza put it, “I sure like Bob, but he could have known this [redistricting] was coming and entered the Senate race a bit earlier.”
Self-made millionaire Maragos has said he will spend handsomely from his own wallet to win the primary. But for now, it seems the momentum is with Wendy Long—and with it, interest in the possibility that New York Republicans may finally have something on the ball.