GOP candidates vie for Gillibrand’s seat

Nassau County comptroller George Maragos speaks during the New York State Republican Convention in Rochester, N.Y., Friday, March 16, 2012. New York Republicans are meeting to consider candidates to challenge Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. (AP Photo/David Duprey) New York City attorney Wendy Long talks with supporters during the New York State Republican Convention in Rochester, N.Y., Friday, March 16, 2012. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
AP Photos/(l. and r.) David Duprey, Photo (c.) by Christina Santucci
By Steve Mosco

With opponents emerging and the statewide primary set for June, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) stand to defend her seat begins now.

U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) decided to challenge Gillibrand for her Senate seat after it became apparent redistricting would eliminate the 9th Congressional District, which he won in a special election after Rep. Anthony Weiner stepped down amid a highly publicized sexting scandal.

When the district lines were redrawn, many believed that Turner would challenge Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) in a battle for southern Queens. Instead, Turner made a late entry into the race for Gillibrand’s seat and picked up enough support at the state Republican convention to force a primary against two other opponents.

Jessica Proud, a spokeswoman for Turner’s campaign, said he entered the race late because preliminary redistricting maps indicated his district would be preserved.

“We look forward to drawing the distinction between Turner and the other candidates,” she said. “Bob sent shockwaves with his win last year and he feels strongly about continuing his mission on a statewide level.”

Two other candidates from the Republican ranks — Manhattan lawyer Wendy Long and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos — have stepped up to oppose Gillibrand after each one nabbed the necessary 25 percent at the GOP committee members’ vote to qualify for the June 26 primary ballot.

Democrats nominated Gillibrand for re-election Monday and the senator will run for her first full, six-year term. The former upstate Congress member won a special election in 2010 to fill the remainder of Hillary Clinton’s term, which ends this year, after being appointed to the seat by then-Gov. David Patterson.

Wendy Long won the Conservative Party nomination later Monday with 91 percent of the vote. Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long — no relation — said the Conservative nominee was chosen because of her stark contrast with Gillibrand on policies.

“She [Gillibrand] was very moderate in Congress. She went to the Senate and suddenly she became very liberal,” said Mike Long, who believes the Conservative candidate can raise enough money for a serious run and make this a very close race. “[Wendy] Long is a conservative scholar, and she can relate to and articulate the issues important to the state and the U.S.”

Wendy Long served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City, and then for Justice Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2005, she joined the Judicial Confirmation Network as chief counsel. Since 2007, Long as been legal adviser to Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Maragos, who took 27 percent of the GOP committee members’ vote, said he has experience streamlining Nassau County’s financial operations, which he believes will serve him well.

“I reduced Nassau County’s amount of borrowing by 50 percent without any property tax increases in just over three years,” said Maragos. “And that is exactly what we need to do in Washington. We need to straighten out finances, make the government more efficient and reduce the national debt.”

As for fund-raising, Maragos said he has already put more then $1 million of his own money into his campaign account and he pledges to spend $5 million more after he receives the nomination.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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