Incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Wendy Long, the two women vying to be elected to the U.S. Senate from New York, are facing off in a live debate on NY1 Wednesday night. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Kirsten Gillibrand is taking the power of incumbency into her race. According to the most recent campaign filing, she has more than $10 million in cash on hand. So formidable is her war chest that she has been hosting fundraisers for other women candidates, as women's issues have been one of the focal points of her campaign.
"I'm Kirsten Gillibrand and I approve this message because if 51 percent of Congress was women, we wouldn't be debating contraception. We'd be debating jobs and the economy," one of her ads says.
Gillibrand was appointed to the seat in 2009 by then-Gov. David Paterson. She then stood for election and won a year later. Criticized at the time for how the appointment was handled, Paterson said the senator has grown into a very strong incumbent.
"When you think about it, Sen. Gillibrand will be coming upon her fourth year in the United States Senate," Paterson said. "And two of those years, she was running for re-election, unlike the other senators."
By comparison, Conservative Manhattan Attorney Wendy Long has raised just a few hundred thousand dollars and has less than $100,000 on hand.
After winning a three-way primary in June, Long has struggled to make traction with her candidacy ever since, something she acknowledged in an interview Monday night on YNN.
"It's really difficult," she said. "New York is a big state. But we've been running a great grass-roots campaign. She has a big advantage, obviously, as the incumbent. Big advantage with money."
Polls have shown Gillibrand with a comfortable lead. Some have suggested she is now raising her national profile, either in a bid to run the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or even a dark horse presidential run.
"She ran in a very difficult congressional seat and won twice," Paterson said. "She has operated well upstate. She has worked down in New York City. She has a real sense of the entire state."
Both women bring starkly different ideologies and world views into the debate.