Conservative Party chair says Turner is ‘too late,’ will stick with Wendy Long

Wendy Long. (Reid Pillifant)
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New York State Conservative Party chairman Mike Long told me just now the party was unlikely to back Representative Bob Turner's newly announced campaign against U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. He said that support was already strong among the party's county chairs for Wendy Long, a former clerk to Clarence Thomas who announced her candidacy last month.

"As I told [Turner] last night when he called me, Wendy Long has really picked up a head of steam in the Conservative Party and I don't see any openings here," Long told me today. "She has really gathered county support throughout the party. She has created a lot of excitement within the ranks of the party.

"I'm going to meet with Bob Turner today and discuss the issue with him, but I don't see my leaders turning around. I think they feel very strongly that Wendy Long is a very good candidate and the best candidate to challenge Gillibrand." 

Republicans have been searching for a high-profile candidate to take on Gillibrand—who Republicans insist is vulnerable despite her strong poll numbers and sizable war chest—but Long doubted whether Turner was sufficiently well-known to qualify.

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"I will admit he has name recognition in his district, but he certainly doesn't have name recognition in the North Country," he said.

No New York Republican has won statewide without the backing of the Conservative Party since Jacob Javits, in 1974.

Long said he likes Turner personally, and that it's a difficult decision for him as a chairman, since the two are neighbors in the summertime.

"In all honesty, it's certainly nothing to do with him personally," he said. "But the bottom line I think, really: He has come to the table too late."

Long also said it would be a "big advantage" to have a woman running against Gillibrand, and that his preferred candidate had been solidifying the party's support even as Turner was making his intentions known.

"We had a function last night, and Wendy Long was there and my leaders were all over her," he said.

The Republican Party is set to meet this Friday in Rochester, with the Conservative Party scheduled to hold its convention the following Monday, March 19, in Manhattan.