Gillibrand, Long square off in contentious debate

Posted at: 10/18/2012 12:21 AM
By: Dan Levy

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and challenger Wendy Long traded barbs Wednesday night over taxes, abortion, and the economy. At times, their debate became contentious.

It was a clear home field advantage for Gillibrand, a resident of Brunswick in Rensselaer County, versus New York City attorney Long, who several times was the recipient of boos, hisses, or laughter over her antics and statements.

The Skidmore College auditorium was jam-packed and the issues were across the board and around the world.

The first topic focused on the recent Libyan embassy attack.

"President Obama has been committed to trying to strengthen democracy in the Middle East," Gillibrand began, before being interrupted.

"I was speaking of this specific (Libyan Embassy) instance," Long said, cutting off New York's junior senator in mid sentence.

Long called for the immediate resignation of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice after Rice publicly blamed rioters with the Libyan attack, instead of terrorists.

Gillibrand promised that investigators will get to the bottom it, chastising Long for trying to make political hay out of an American tragedy.

Next, the discussion turned to jobs and the economy.

"We can not have a slash-only approach as my opponent has said," Gillibrand stated, "When you do that you are slashing programs that are so vital."

But before Gillibrand could finish her thought, Long interrupted again.

"What would you cut?" she asked, "Can you suggest something you'd cut?"

The crowd, mostly Gillibrand partisans, began booing.

The candidates zeroed in on the abortion issue.

"I am pro life," Long proudly declared. "I believe every human being from conception until natural death has a right to life."

"I believe every woman has a right to make decisions about her reproductive life," Gillibrand countered.

After the debate, New York State's Republican Chairman Ed Cox says he was delighted with his candidate's performance.

"The game plan went terrific," Cox proclaimed. "Wendy Long showed herself for what she is: a principled, citizen politician who is just speaking the truth."

Skidmore College Professor of Government Bob Turner says if he were grading the candidates, he'd give them each an A-minus,  pointing out that both of them were able to clearly present their positions on issues.

"I think it's really hard for a candidate like Wendy Long to win a statewide office here (in New York) as long as she's so conservative on social issues," Turner opined.

Both Gillibrand and Long are graduates of Dartmouth College

When asked which U.S.. Supreme Court justices they admired most, Gillibrand said, "Sonia Sotomayor."

Wendy Long mentioned several justices, although the first one she named is the one she clerked for, Justice Clarence Thomas, which drew a chuckle from the left-leaning crowd.

Gillibrand is heavily favored in the November 6th election. If she wins, she would become the first upstate resident to be elected to a full term in the senate since Kenneth Keating in 1959.

The very first U.S. Senator from New York was Albany native Philip Schuyler, who took office in 1789, but then lost his reelection bid two years later, in 1791, to Aaron Burr.

In a rematch, Schuyler won back his senate seat from Burr in the election of 1797. Burr went on to become vice president under the 3rd U.S. President Thomas Jefferson.