Saturday March 17, 2012

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Three people have earned a shot at the Republican nomination in the race to try to defeat Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Conservative lawyer Wendy Long, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos and U.S. Rep. Bob Turner won enough votes at Friday's Republican convention in Rochester to make the June 26 primary ballot.

Long is an attorney who never held elective office. She won more than 47 percent of the vote. Turner and Maragos had 25 and 27 percent of the vote, respectively.

Earlier Friday, Republican Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin dropped out.

Race scrambled

The Senate race was unexpectedly scrambled Tuesday when Turner, facing likely elimination of his New York City congressional district, belatedly announced a run.

Turner focused on his upset win for Congress in a September special election -- filling the 9th District seat vacated by Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned after he admitted he sent women lewd text messages and photos of himself -- and said he could do it again statewide.

He told delegates that people in the media and the fundraising business know who he is and that he has credibility with the Jewish community. He said he can raise the $15 million or more the race would require.

"This seat is not considered even in play. I'll put it in play," Turner said. "And with the money we can raise, the excitement we can get, we will divert a great deal of attention here."

Long, 51, was formerly counsel for the conservative advocacy group now known as the Judicial Crisis Network. Long said New York needs an independent senator and called Gillibrand little more than a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama and Sen. Charles Schumer.

"Senator Gillibrand has said she wants to see more women in politics. I say let's give her what's she's asking for," Long told delegates.

Maragos, 62, is a Long Island resident who founded a financial technology firm before scoring an upset win in 2009 to become Nassau County comptroller. He played up his humble, immigrant roots and claimed that Gillibrand was not working to protect the financial sector and other industries important in New York.

"She has betrayed New Yorkers and worked against the best interest of New York," Maragos said.

The convention also served as a way to fire up the Republican faithful. Former Gov. George Pataki roused the crowd to their feet with a blistering attack on Democrats as a party that believes government should be Americans' master and not their servant. Delegates walked past sepia-toned wanted posters hung offering a $1,000 reward "for anyone who can find Kirsten Gillibrand's core convictions."

Some analysts believe a three-month Republican primary would draw precious resources from a party outnumbered 2-to-1 by Democrats in New York. But Republican state Chairman Ed Cox said it would allow the group of lesser-known candidates to establish themselves with voters.

Carvin, who had lagged in support, said he believed he could have won a spot on the ballot but feels any of the candidates can defeat Gillibrand.

Any of the remaining candidates likely face an uphill battle in the general election.

Gillibrand has raised more than $8 million for the race and has been building support after a bumpy start in the Senate three years ago. The former upstate congresswoman was criticized for moving to the left on many issues after she was picked to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who became secretary of state.

Gillibrand handily won election in 2010 to fill out the remainder of the term and is running for her first full six-year term. New York Democrats are expected to nominate Gillibrand on Monday. Even as the Republican convention started, state Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs issued a statement calling the candidates conservatives who are out of out of step with mainstream New Yorkers.

The state Conservative Party also will make its pick Monday. Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long favors Wendy Long, who is no relation, though Turner dismissed the contention the Conservative nod was out of his reach. The Conservative line is highly coveted by Republicans running for statewide office. 

Long hugged her children where the results were announced Friday and all three said they were excited to hit the trail.

"I'm going to be a very busy guy," Turner said.

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