Schumer, Long are study in contrasts
ALBANY >> Sen. Charles Schumer is an established incumbent in line to become the chamber’s top Democrat, running for re-election against a little-known, Trump-embracing lawyer who lost her last race in a landslide.
Republican Wendy Long has attracted scant attention, relatively little money and, if polls are right, has the slimmest chance of defeating the three-term Democrat. As Schumer airs TV ads around the state promoting his work for New Yorkers, Long casts herself and Donald Trump as fellow warriors fighting the corrupt, elite establishment.
“Somewhere along the way, the forgotten men and women that Donald Trump speaks about — the regular, ordinary working people — have been left behind,” Long told a Women for Trump rally in Albany this month. “And that is what inspired me to jump into this race alongside Donald Trump.”
Though Trump has been badly trailing Hillary Rodham Clinton in the presidential race in New York polls, Long is linking herself to a candidate with a fervent following among many Republicans. The 56-year-old New York City lawyer’s conservative credentials also include stints clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and as chief counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative advocacy group.
Long ran a low-budget but aggressive campaign in 2012 as Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sought her first full term; Gillibrand won 72 percent to 26 percent.
A Siena poll of likely voters released Wednesday points to a similar dynamic in this race, with Schumer supported by 66 percent to Long’s 27 percent. About threequarters of the respondents either didn’t know who Long was or had no opinion about her.
Schumer, 65, was first elected
to Congress in 1980 and has not faced a serious challenge in this heavily Democratic state since defeating Republican incumbent Sen. Alfonse D’Amato in 1998. He is expected to succeed retiring Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada as leader of Senate Democrats next year, meaning he would become majority leader if Democrats retake the Senate.
Though he has a reputation as a savvy operator in Washington, he often highlights small-bore issues back home, such as computerized ticket scalping, and is known for tirelessly visiting every corner of the state.
“I’ll go to the State Fair or the oyster fest on Long Island or a Taste of Buffalo and I’ll spend four or five hours there, shaking hands,” Schumer said this week after a stop in Schenectady to promote train safety. “And people say, ‘Why do you do it? People know you.’ Fifty people will pass you by say, ‘Hello’ or ‘Nice job.’ But the 51st will stop and say something. And if you’re there for three hours, you’ll talk to 50 or 60 people.”
Long dismisses Schumer as a “phony” and likens his regular news conferences on relatively minor issues like caffeinated peanut butter as a “bread-and-circuses routine.”
Schumer declined to address criticism from Long and said he’s focused on doing his job.
To the degree that Schumer shows signs of running a political race, it appears to be against no one in particular. His campaign ads highlight his efforts to funnel aid to New York after the Sept. 11 attacks and natural disasters, keeping the Buffalo Bills from moving and promoting Greek yogurt production in upstate New York.
Though Schumer has taken in $25 million for his campaign, he disbursed $6.2 million to help other Democrats as he works to retake the Senate majority. Long’s latest filing showed the campaign with $121,673 on hand.
Long has relied on social media and volunteers to get her word out. She’ll also get a chance to take on Schumer directly when the two debate on Oct. 30.
The lone debate is on a Sunday night opposite an NFL game, nine days before the election.