GOP faces uphill climb to Gillibrand seat

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Dan Janison Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison,

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10 years, much of which was spent as a ...

By most accounts, the winner of the statewide, three-way Republican primary for U.S. Senate on June 26 will face a steep uphill climb in November against Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand -- who enjoys flush funds, no challengers within her party, and positive poll numbers.

Whether the GOP nominee proves to be Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, Rep. Robert Turner of Rockaway Point, or Manhattan attorney Wendy Long, any GOP scenario involves hope for: A tidal shift in New York voters' view of President Barack Obama; a huge Gillibrand misstep; a sudden "sugar-daddy" contributor, or some combination of the three, according to operatives in both major parties.

So far the national GOP, with more hopeful-looking races under way, appears unlikely to invest in New York's Senate campaign. Gillibrand's fortune so far is striking, considering then-Gov. David A. Paterson appointed her senator in 2009 amid squawking and threats of challenge from well-known party activists. Then she won a special election a year and a half ago to finish Hillary Rodham Clinton's term. She now goes for a full six-year term.

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A Quinnipiac University poll published last week put Gillibrand's approval rating at 60 percent, leading each potential opponent more than 2-1 in head-to-head matchups. Of course, that is expected to tighten once a single opponent emerges and draws wider exposure.

More than three-quarters of those sampled said they didn't know enough to express an opinion about any of the GOP candidates. But Long campaign adviser David Catalfamo put an interesting twirl on that finding. He noted that, even while relatively unknown, each of the three nonetheless drew support from 36 or 37 percent of suburban voters surveyed.

A televised primary debate is scheduled for June 17.BOWING OUT: Last August, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano retained Ravi Batra, an attorney best known in the Brooklyn courts, to be a part-time "special counsel" who could advise him on fiscal matters and "identifying fraud, waste and abuse in governance." But since then, it seems, Batra was neither called into service nor paid by Mangano.

In a wide-ranging, warmly worded letter to Mangano Friday, citing the views of Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Becket and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on public service, Batra wrote: "Permit me to gently and graciously resign" from the appointment, due to a "full plate" including a private practice and role on a state ethics panel.

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