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Sen. Gillibrand greets the crowd in Saratoga Springs, New York, ready to debate Wendy Long.
New York's Senate race had its first and only debate tonight at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. CSPAN video is here, it's an hour long, and is not embeddable, if it becomes so, I'll update.

Spoiler alert: The only real drama associated with the New York Senate race this year is if incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will crush Republican challenger Wendy Long by 30 points or 40?

Which also might explain why out of 12 million New Yorkers I seemed to have been the only person watching and tweeting the debate live, who was not being paid by a news media organization to do so.

Sen. Gillibrand greets supporters outside
the debate site, Skidmore College.
Local news reporters Liz Benjamin and Errol Louis moderated. They did a good job. Perhaps a few too many fluffy questions. I did not need to know if either candidate had read Fifty Shades of Grey. But it was an hour long and we did get lots of meaty stuff too.

Initially the debate focused a great deal on women's reproductive choice. Gillibrand called out Long for her support of the Blunt amendment, which Long pretended did not mean she wanted to empower employers to make women's health choices for them. Of course the only reason to pass the Blunt amendment is to empower employers to say what women's health choices may be.

Espousing her great legal credentials, Long alleged Roe v. Wade was "universally recognized" as a bad legal decision and generally riled against a woman's right to choose. She made it abundantly clear a woman's right to choose was not a fundamental civil right, and could—and probably should—be taken away by the states.

After Long's long, pro-life rant, Gillibrand said, "I disagree with my opponent."

It was such a quiet understatement for Gillibrand, one of the biggest champions of the women's reproductive choice, the crowd laughed.

There were in fact, several times the audience openly laughed, mostly at Long's wacky pronouncements:

  • "Justice Clarence Thomas is a great man." This prompted laughs and gasps, reminiscent of Scott Brown's big "I Scalia" moment.
  • Chastising Gillibrand for dangerously keeping a gun under her bed. (Gillibrand did not address that in her response.)
  • There are no legitimate health concerns about hydro-fracking.

Seriously, she called all the environmentalist concern about health affects of hydro-fracking "totally phony." She also said we've always had methane in our drinking water and it's fine, already!

Long reiterated her opposition to the DREAM Act, and gave vague proclamations about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. I smelled the sort of GOP standard where every bowl of legislative porridge that is brought to the table will doubtlessly be too hot or too cold to earn her vote.

This opened the door for Gillibrand to display her great empathy for kids, who through no fault of their own, find themselves in an immigration no man's land. In her opinion they deserve a pathway to pursue the American dream, unfettered by immigration status uncertainty. She has a talent in taking on the underdog's cause and shined in that moment.

Long's opposition to the appointment of Justice Sonia Sotomayor came up, and though she echoed the same sexist, racist rhetoric as everyone else, on the same network, Fox News, Long insisted it was all because Sotomayor doesn't follow the Constitution. You know, she reads that other document, the one that affirmed a woman's right to choose.

Overall, I have rarely seen a more pathetic display in politics than what Long brought to the table tonight. At the start she repeatedly interrupted Gillibrand while she was speaking until she was chastised by the moderators, then she seemed to be able to control herself.

Long whined to the crowd that her record on women's choice wasn't an important issue (even though the Democrat's slim Senate majority seems to be the last defense against Speaker Boehner and the Republican war on choice). Long insisted the economy and jobs were what was important.

The need to stay focused on jobs and economy didn't stop Long from repeatedly badgering Gillibrand about a recent scandal in New York's state government.

The brief background is there's a local scandal over an assemblyman who sexually harassed a number of women, and some allegations there was a insider cover-up surrounding payments made. It's all very ugly and terrible.

It is not a federal issue, however. The workings of the state assembly house are not in Gillibrand's domain, nor has she ever served in state government. So it seemed very odd Long seemed very interested in extracted some pound of flesh out of Gillibrand for a scandal she is neither involved in, nor can exercise any oversight? It was a desperate effort to play guilt by association merely because both people are Democrats. Gillibrand appropriately expressed her outrage over the situation and her confidence the on-going investigation will be resolved satisfactorily.

One pundit on NY1 news channel opined maybe Long should be running for assembly?

LGBT issues did not come up. Not that we needed to know more than Gillibrand is Gillibrand and Long has said she's refuse to attend a gay wedding.

On choice, on immigration, on environmental issues, on economic philosophy, Long is all wrong for New York. She is a human Fox News chyron.

And in a way, it's a shame. Because Gillibrand deserves a worthy opponent who make her actually work for her victory. That is a debate I'd like to see. I would enjoy seeing her face an worthy adversary.

For example, Gillibrand expressed disagreement with the current Afghanistan policy, saying there was a moving threat in the region and citing the need for "more narrowly focused" missions targeting the enemy. The brief exchanges were intriguing in an election season where no one apparently remembers we're at war. I wanted to hear a credible person, a Senate Armed Services member, discuss it more fully.

And Gillibrand's words brought to my mind concerns about of violating international sovereignty while pursuing al-Qaeda in the region. Pakistan and Yeman don't want our boots on their ground, drones are problematic too.

But Long isn't up to the task of exploring any of these vexing national security questions in depth, or thoughtfully. She just spouts talking points, like saying Obama isn't a good friend to Israel and is weak on Iran.

This is the sort of "important issues" Long's staff was tweeting during the debate:

Yes, even as Long is running on defending "religious liberty" from Gillibrand she's ginning up outrage about where Muslims Americans may be allowed to build community centers.

Yes, vote against Gillibrand because she and her friends once gave baby Jesus the Bronx cheer. (I honestly don't know or care what that poutrage is about.)

Maybe Long could get traction in the same districts that elect Louie Gohmert, Todd Akin or Virginia Foxx. But she's surreally far right for New York. No wonder Gillibrand's 40 points up. For the average, relatively sane New Yorker, it's KG or no one.

Long's message was: "Gillibrand = Obama = bad!" Which seems a curious electoral strategy, trying to desperately tie Gillibrand to "Obama's agenda." It was like she was trying to win Gillibrand the election. I am not sure Long realizes Obama's poised to win New York by 30 points? Empire staters are very down with the Obama agenda, so sending a senator to D.C. to help him can't seem like such a bad thing.

At least when Gillibrand trounces Long in two weeks, the tea party won't be able to say Long wasn't a "true conservative."

I will say she did her best to defend "true conservatism" tonight. We'll see what the voters think of it in two weeks.

Update: Don't take my word for it the audience found Long laughable. Here's a conservative lamenting that few in the hall took Long's brand of True Conservatism™ seriously:

Originally posted to New York State on Wed Oct 17, 2012 at 07:51 PM PDT.

Also republished by New York City and Milk Men And Women.

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