SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican challenger Wendy Long traded barbs over the economy, abortion and natural gas exploration in a sometimes heated debate Wednesday night.
Gillibrand, far ahead of Long in the polls, fundraising and name recognition, has barely mentioned her Republican opponent. In contrast, Long has persistently attacked Gillibrand's record on the campaign trail. She finally got her chance to confront Gillibrand face-to-face at the debate televised from Skidmore College.
At one point, Long accused Gillibrand of doing nothing to create jobs in upstate New York.
"As I go around upstate, I see towns with empty storefronts, factories that have been shuttered paint peeling off of buildings and people desperate for work," Long said.
Gillibrand stood by her three-year record in the Senate over the hour-long debate, and hit Long back on her pledge to not raise taxes to balance the federal budget.
"We can tighten our belts. We can cut spending," Gillibrand said, "but we have to do it precisely and carefully. We cannot have a slash-only approach, like my opponent has."
Long, a New York City attorney making her first run for elected office, won a three-way Republican primary in June after campaigning on fiscal discipline, opposition to abortion and other conservative positions. Sharp distinctions were apparent Wednesday between Long and Gillibrand, who has championed same-sex marriage and women's rights.
In one of the most animated exchanges, Long spoke against the mandate that President Barack Obama announced in January requiring most employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control, a move opposed by many Roman Catholic groups.