SARANAC LAKE - Wendy Long hopes to unseat U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in this fall's election, but first she needs to get by two other candidates in the June 26 Republican primary.
Long was born and raised in New Hampshire, got degrees from Dartmouth and Northwestern and has lived in New York for 14 years. She has worked at a private law firm in New York City, helped build the Judicial Crisis Network to fight judicial activism and helped Supreme Court justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito get confirmed by the Senate.
To secure the GOP line in this fall's election, Long will need to beat Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos and U.S. Rep. Bob Turner.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long hopes to secure the GOP line in the June 26 primary for a chance to run against Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand this fall.
(Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)
She stopped in Saranac Lake during a tour of the North Country last week to meet with the Enterprise.
Long said she was encouraged to run for Senate by Mike Long (no relation), chairman of the state Conservative Party, and decided to go for it because of a "real, deep conviction that things are going wrong." She said she has the experience to help get the U.S. back on track.
"I saw a survey recently that said about 16 percent of Americans now believe that their children are going to have greater opportunity and a better life than they had," Long said. "While the number was sort of shocking to me, it reinforced to me why I'm doing this."
Long said she's worried her children and their peers won't grow up with the same freedoms, opportunities and sense of patriotism that she did.
America's mounting debt and the size of the federal government are among Long's biggest concerns. She said she also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act - commonly called "Obamacare" - and address the nation's educational system.
Long said she thinks the Supreme Court will overturn Obamacare, but "we can't rest on the assumption that it will be.
"We need to elect a Republican president who wants to overturn it and replace it, we need to elect a Republican Senate, and we need to re-elect a Republican House," she said, "because I firmly believe that the Democrat model - the liberal Obama-Gillibrand model - is taking us over a cliff, and Obamacare is a big part of that."
Long said the health care law must be replaced with a model that "preserves the great virtues and successes of American medicine" while establishing a new insurance system based on competition. She wasn't able to offer specifics of such a plan other than that it would let insurance plans operate across state lines, although she wouldn't support the federal government trumping states' varying insurance laws.
"I think the Republican philosophy is that competition and free markets make any product or service better, and health care and health insurance is no exception to that rule," she said.
Long said that as a senator, she would also work to establish energy independence and repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a financial regulatory reform law signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.
Long said public education is failing in the U.S. She called education the "civil rights issue of the 21st century."
Long's children are enrolled in private schools, but she said she received a "fantastic public school education." She said the lack of quality public education is making the economic crisis worse.
"It's what's dividing our society," Long said. "A great public education is the leveler in American society. It's what gives everybody equal opportunity and really reinforces the promise of equality. And I don't think that's happening."
Long said she supports vouchers to let parents decide where to send their children to school.
"The basis of self-government is an educated citizenry, and I think we're not seeing that," she said. "We're seeing a cycle of poverty and a cycle of government dependency that people get trapped in."
On war and international relations, Long is tough on Obama despite the fact that his administration is responsible for killing Osama bin Laden and other high-profile Al Qaeda leaders. She said Obama has engaged in a course of unilateral disarmament.
"He's scaling down our military," Long said. "And I think that that's premised upon his belief, which I think is a fundamental liberal belief that's incorrect, that a strong America is somehow incendiary - that it's a provocation to our enemies. I think exactly the opposite is true: I think a strong America is what keeps peace."
She said she also did not support some military missions Obama has led, such as in Libya. On Iran, she said he was disrespecting Israel. Syria, she said, is a trickier matter.
Earlier this year, Obama came under fire for federal policies that required religious organizations to pay for contraception through employee health plans. That led to what some pundits deemed a "war on women" by conservative politicians.
Long called the "war on women" a phony issue that was cooked up by Democrats because it's a bad election year for them. She said Democrats are trying to distract voters from the real issues: the economy, taxes, government regulation and jobs.
"When you don't have a good story to tell on those issues, you try to toss up a lot of brightly colored objects over here on the side to distract attention," Long said. "I think that's why it was cooked up."
The big question for Long and her Republican rivals is whether they can beat the odds and get past a Democrat in the general election. Ray Scollin is the Republican state committeeman for Franklin County, and he voted for Long at the Republican State Convention in Rochester earlier this year.
Scollin noted that New York voters traditionally go with the Democrat in Senate races, but he said there has been a Republican shift in some parts of the state in recent years.
"We're a blue state when you look at us back from a distance, and a lot of that's because of the New York City vote," Scollin said. "But if you look at all of the different counties and you look at whether they are red or blue, the majority are red; they just aren't the population base. But we're seeing some really exciting changes going on in Buffalo, Syracuse - so whether or not we can overcome the New York City piece, I don't know."
Scollin said more than 60 percent of Republican voters are still undecided in the Senate race, and candidates aren't spending much in the primary race because they need to save for the "Gillibrand fight."