The influence of the New York Conservative Party as well as the support of key conservative leaders helped propel Wendy Long, onetime law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, to victory in the three-candidate Republican primary for the Senate. In earning the right to face Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand this fall, Long defeated Rep. Bob Turner, best known for winning a nationally-watched special election for the seat of Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner last year, and Nassau County Controller George Maragos, who spent over $1 million of his own wealth on a TV blitz.
“Long’s impressive showing can be attributed to four factors,” historian David Pietrusza, who knows all things New York, told Human Events, “the Conservative Party endorsement [which guarantees her the third ballot line on the Empire State ballot in November along with the GOP line], a heavy vote upstate, the women’s vote, and support from the numerous county organizations in her corner. Turner relied almost exclusively on an endorsement from Rudy Giuliani. It wasn’t nearly enough, and Turner’s weak numbers despite heavy radio advertising, may signal the waning of Rudy’s influence.”
In rolling up over half the vote, Long had the strong support of radio talkshow host Laura Ingraham and 2006 gubernatorial nominee John Faso. In addition, her impressive speaking style secured endorsements from several county party organizations as well as the GOP state convention earlier this year.
The Republican primary also demonstrated how political times have changed for New York Republicans over the past generation. In a state GOP long known for nominating moderates, the three-candidate field this year featured conservatives only. Long’s convincing win also maintains the alliance between the state GOP and the Conservative Party, which going back to 1976, have almost always given their nominations to the same candidate.
At this point, few believe in the end that Long will eventually unseat Gillibrand, who has nearly $10 million in her campaign coffers and has already signaled she wants to run for president in 2016. But few believed in first-time candidate Wendy Long when she launched her candidacy.