Michael Long, New York State Conservative Party Chairman, in 2010.

Michael Long, New York State Conservative Party Chairman, in 2010. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Longtime New York State Conservative Party chairman Michael Long, who helped Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Al D’Amato, Sen. James Buckley and other Republicans win statewide elections in Democratic-dominated New York, died Sunday at his home in Breezy Point, Queens. 

Long, 82, struggled with kidney issues and other health problems since he retired as party chairman in 2019, his family said. The former Marine and his wife Eileen celebrated their 59th anniversary in May, and he was the proud father of nine children. 

Friends and relatives said Long was a principled and deeply religious man who worked hard to promote conservative principles even when they were not in vogue. 

“My dad always fought for what he thought was the right thing to do, even when that was sometimes unpopular,” his daughter Eileen Long Chelales said. “A friend said, ‘He was an incredibly ethical man with unmatched integrity.’ That was my dad.” 

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a longtime friend, said Long was deeply committed to his values but listened to other points of view and knew when to compromise. 

“He was a dear friend and his word was his bond,” Blakeman said. “He definitely made the State of New York a better place to live.”

Long is best known for his leadership of the Conservative Party in 1994, when it gave Pataki, then a state senator with little name recognition outside of Westchester County, the edge he needed to defeat liberal incumbent Gov. Mario Cuomo. 

“Mike Long was one of the finest human beings I ever met,” Pataki said. “He was by far the best political leader, whether at the state, federal or local level, but more importantly, he was a wonderful human being.” 

Politicos clamored for meetings with Long after the 1994 election, current chairman Gerard Kassar said, but they could have simply walked into the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, liquor store he owned with his brother near Conservative Party headquarters to hear Long hold court from behind the counter on the issues of the day.

“He was an extraordinary man because he was such an ordinary man,” Kassar said. 

Long got hooked on politics after attending a rally at Madison Square Garden for Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate for president in 1964. He became active in Conservative Party politics and  became the party's state chairman in 1988. He served in that position until 2019, the longest serving state chairman in the party’s history. He also proudly voted for President Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 as a member of New York’s Electoral College slate, his family said. 

Long was deeply interested not only in national and state politics but in local issues as well. He served on the New York City Council from 1981 to 1983 and was chairman of Community School Board 19 in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Long also served on the boards of a number of New York City schools and charitable organizations. 

But Long’s most important legacy, Long Chelales said, is his family, which includes his 25 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. 

Funeral arrangements were pending on Sunday, his family said. 

“Mike’s leadership is legendary,” said Conservative Party executive director Shaun Marie Levine. “If you had differences on any subject, it was never combative, it was discussed. Mike had a natural ability to lead you to his understanding of the issue, which is why he was such an effective leader.” 

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