ALBANY - Wendy Long, who promoted her conservative credentials on her way to a convincing win in New York's Republican Senate primary, now faces a broader and more liberal electorate as she takes on Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand.
Long, a New York City attorney, defeated U.S. Rep. Bob Turner and Nassau County comptroller George Maragos in a primary election Tuesday notable for low turnout.
Long won every upstate county in her double-digit win. Turner came in second with wins in his home turf of Brooklyn and Queens, along with the heavily populated suburban counties of Rockland and Westchester. Maragos won his home county of Nassau.
With nearly every precinct reporting, Long had 51 percent of the vote, compared to 36 percent for Turner and 13 for Maragos.
"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 noted her similarities with Gillibrand: each attended Dartmouth, have young children and worked for big New York City law firms. But they hold very different political views.
Long has run as a staunch conservative. She promoted her support for gun rights, said she opposed same-sex 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.
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. Still, Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said Long has her work cut out for her over the next four months.
"It is going to take every break breaking ... for Long to even be truly competitive," Greenberg said.
Republicans have criticized Gillibrand, a former upstate congresswoman, for taking more liberal positions after her appointment to the Senate. 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."