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Long wins GOP Senate primary in NY

U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long campaigns in Garden

U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long campaigns in Garden City. (June 25, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

NEW YORK - Buoyed by the conservative wing of the party, Manhattan attorney Wendy Long won a three-way battle for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

With 92 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, she had 51 percent of the vote. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Rockaway Point) had 36 percent, and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos had 13 percent.

Long, who had the bulk of her support upstate, will take on incumbent Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the November general election.

Republican leaders said turnout across the state was "scary low" at about 5 percent -- even lower than normal for a primary -- after the state was forced by a court to move its primaries for federal offices up from September. The Turner campaign Tuesday night asked a State Supreme Court to impound all the ballots, to "ensure the integrity" of every vote.

Despite never running for office before, Long bagged the most endorsements from Republican officials and secured the backing of the Conservative Party. A former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Long played up her conservative credentials to win a primary that garnered little attention from the public -- and even Republican voters.

In a victory speech at the Sheraton in midtown Manhattan, Long called herself an "unknown, underfunded, underdog." She called Gillibrand "the most liberal senator" in the nation and said she would appeal to "voters as independent as we are."

Yet she made no bones about sticking to a conservative theme as she moves to the general election.

"I think the way we win in this state is by being a Ronald Reagan Republican, and Ronald Reagan didn't pursue some middle-of-the-road strategy," Long said. "He was a true-blue conservative, which is exactly what I am."

Notably, she was introduced at the victory celebration by Michael Long, who is no relation but who heads the Conservative Party, rather than state GOP chairman Ed Cox.

Turner was the darling of New York Republicans just a year ago when he scored an upset in a Democrat-heavy Brooklyn-Queens district to replace disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner.

But Turner saw his district cannibalized when New York eliminated two congressional seats in the redistricting process. He decided to enter the Senate campaign -- but did so just a week before the GOP nominating convention and after Long began to line up support from dozens of Republican county committees.

In a statement, Turner pledged "to work with Ms. Long to unite all Republicans and Conservatives in the effort to defeat Kirsten Gillibrand in November."

Maragos declared his candidacy more than a year ago but failed to gain traction from rank-and-file party members.

He said he was disappointed by the low turnout.

"I would have expected that the Republicans, having three candidates competing in what was overall a competitive campaign . . . there would have been a bit more interest," Maragos said. "But at the end of the day, that didn't materialize and I think I was negatively affected as a result. But I respect the results and now we will all come together and work to defeat Gillibrand."

With Nathaniel Herz

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