• Tue, Nov 6 2012

Can Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Beat Wendy Long If They Are Both Pushing The ‘Woman Angle’?

From Left: Attorney Wendy Long and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

It’s the battle of the Dartmouth daughters, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (‘88) and Republican Wendy Long (‘82), for senator in New York. But, this isn’t just a local, political story. It’s a national testament to the diversity of women today and their piqued interest in career politics within both parties. But can Gillibrand, who has promoted herself as a champion of women’s rights, beat another woman who is doing the same?

U.S. Senator Gillibrand has worked to empower women in the Hudson Valley by seeking federal funding for the Women’s Enterprise Development Center that would offer training programs, mentoring and networking opportunities, while attorney Long has been a long-standing propeller in bettering the public education system with moms in children in mind.

In an article by Timesunion.com, Jimmy Vielkind captured the most heated part of the female debate.

“These are fights and battles that my mother had and my grandmother had,” Gillibrand retorted. “Women of America believe that they should make their own decisions about contraception. They don’t expect their legislators to be arguing that their boss should make that decision.”

Long said this was “completely false,” because any woman would still have the ability access these health services paying out of their own pocket.

As the DemocratAndChronicle.com reported, Long said that the “determination that her race against freshman Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wouldn’t be competitive had been made months before. ‘I think it was made even before I got in the race, just because of where the overall map was and because New York is so deep blue,” she said.’

There’s no arguement that there’s a steep, uphill battle for Long since the Gillibrand is securely supported by a strongly embedded democratic culture.

“Gillibrand won 63% of the vote in 2010 when she ran against former Republican Rep. Joe DioGuardi for the remaining two years of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate term,” the article’s author Brian Tumulty, said. “A new Marist College poll sponsored by cable news channels NY1 and YNN found Gillibrand leading Long 68 percent to 24% among likely New York voters. And a Siena College poll released Friday put Gillibrand ahead of Long 67 percent to 24 percent.”

While both candidates sprouted from the same prestigious, male-dominated and – as The New York Times reported about the 70s – openly sexist university, both Gillibrand and Long couldn’t be more different despite their similar memories of Dartmouth in the 80s.

It seems, their time at Dartmouth became their political fork-in-the-road, pushing the two very similar New-England born women into opposite directions with Long to the right, influenced by Catholic, conservative  friends and Gillibrand on the left known for her vivacious free-spirit only enhanced by her adventures in China as one of the program’s first exchange students in  Asia.

Now, they find themselves in a campaign race unlike others across the country. Where the single woman candidate usually holds the power of the female vote over her male opponent, neither Gillibrand nor Long has this advantage.

Long has touted her gender as an asset. Back in June she said she could keep the eventual contest with Gillibrand focused on economic issues instead of social wedges like abortion rights.

As the official university magazine The Dartmouth reported on a recent debate between the two women:

Gillibrand said that Long would “slash” programs vital to the country’s economy and national security were she elected. The quickest way to pay the debt is to grow the economy. We can tighten our belts and cut spending, but we need to do it precisely and carefully. The candidates tackled women’s rights in the context of Roe v. Wade, described by Long as a ‘horrible decision.’

The piece goes on to include Long’s straight, conservative side of things:

Long, who describes herself as pro-life, said that overturning the 1973 decision would allow states to determine their own policies, and she believes that women’s rights should not come at the expense of other humans. She argued that employers should be able to decide whether or not to provide contraception coverage to their employees. For the first time in [United States] history, we have set up a system where you have to obey a government dictate or violate your faith,’ she said.

But, no matter your stance, Dartmouth professor interviewed in the university magazine article thinks we can all agree that this race is a good thing.

“Women’s increasingly common entrance into political races will encourage more women to run for government seats,” government professor Deborah Brooks said.

“I think it’s wonderful that two women, two Dartmouth women, are aiming for this seat and participating in politics,” Brooks said.

Perhaps it was the support they found in one another  - and literally wrote on a wall – as fellow females set on making a name for themselves, not only for the sake of equality on campus, but for their impending impact on their beloved state New York.

A passage in the same New York Times article reads:

In the early 1980s, for example, female students turned a small room in a campus building into a private gathering place. There they left messages to bolster one another’s spirits, like ‘Women are each other’s best resources,’ ‘God knows we need each other’ and “This room has become my haven from the madness and cynicism of the world.’ (It was not until 1988 that the university opened a resource center to address the needs of women.)

So inspirational. Now, we just vent via bathroom stalls. Keep your eye on this race. No matter the outcome, women win.

Photo: The Dartmouth

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