2012-03-23 / Top Stories

Turner Can’t Hold Conservative Nod

By Howard Schwach

A second-party nomination that might well be critical to the political future of Congressman Bob Turner was denied him on Monday when New York’s Conservative Party nominated a strong social and fiscal conservative, Wendy Long, as its Senate candidate – handing Long’s Republican Party bid a significant boost but also threatening to divide Republican voters.

The endorsement from the small but influential party was a coveted prize sought by all three Republican candidates, who will face off in a June 26 primary.

The winner of that race will run as the GOP candidate in November against U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, in a bid to be the first Republican to win a senatorial contest in New York since 1992.

Turner already has the backing of several local Republican clubs in New York City, including Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Political insiders say, however, that the club endorsements won’t do much good if Long has the backing of the Conservative Party, because many say that the Conservative nod is critical to beating Gillibrand.

Long, a New York City lawyer who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, described herself as a committed conservative who would bring a clear contrast in a race against Gillibrand, whom she called a “rubberstamp” for President Barack Obama.

Asked if she would remain in the race – running on the Conservative Party’s ballot line – even if she were to lose the Republican Party primary, Long said she would.

“I promised the conservatives that I’m in the race till November, and I’m in the race till November,” said Long.

The two other Republican candidates are Turner, who last year won an upset victory to fill New York City’s congressional seat left vacant when Anthony Weiner resigned in a sex scandal, and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos.

Both appeared at the Conservatives’ meeting on Monday. The nomination was somewhat unexpected since the Conservative Party chairman, Michael Long, has shared a decades-long friendship with Turner and was a key backer last year when Turner decided to run for Congress.

Turner’s upset win last September against a well-known Democrat in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one garnered national headlines and was seen as a referendum on Obama’s economic and foreign policies.

But the victory was short-lived: this month, the district became a casualty in the state’s once-per-decade redrawing of district lines. It was only then that Turner decided to enter the Senate race.

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