New York's Wendy Long Faces Kirsten Gillibrand in Two-Woman Senate Contest

It’s a two-woman race in New York.

That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Wendy Long, a conservative New York City attorney, beat incumbent U.S. Rep Tom Turner and Nassau County comptroller George Maragos in the state’s Republican primary Tuesday night. She now faces Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, a liberal woman who many think has a bright future as a presidential candidate.

A race with two women candidates is becoming a more common sight in American politics.

In 2010, Republican Carly Fiorina faced incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. Boxer won. That same year, Oklahoma had two female candidates for governor on its ballot – Republican Mary Fallin and Democrat Jari Askins. Fallin won.

Many congressional races have also seen two women candidates. The earliest one documented by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University was in 1944 when Connecticut’s Clare Booth Luce, a Republican, ran against Democrat Margaret Connor.

It wasn’t so long ago – in fact, in 2001 – that Hillary Clinton became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from New York.

Lara Brown, a political science professor at Villanova University, says that if politics were truly an even playing field – based solely on population, then half the races in the country would be between a man and woman, a quarter between two men and another quarter between two women.

“Women comprise more than half the population and it's not surprising that women fall on both sides of the partisan aisle,” Brown tells me. “Further, the only way women are going to make numerical gains is for them, like men, to be distributed all along the ideological spectrum. No one believes Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann hold the same views simply because they are both white men.”

The Center for American Women and Politics says that only 2 percent of members of Congress since 1789 have been women.

Long and Gillibrand are, indeed, a rarity in American politics if simply for the simple fact that women don’t frequently run for office. As Melinda Henneberger recently wrote, women don’t run because they can’t stand the vile nature of the business.

“We have a system that rewards, and maybe even requires candidates to take shots many of the women we’d most like to support want no part of,” Henneberger wrote.

Indeed, politics is a nasty business. The November campaign has already begun in New York. The New York State Democratic Party sent out a press release last night asking “Who Is Wendy Long?” In turn, the Republican Party of New York State has been attacking Gillibrand for months.

Long faces a tough road ahead. She’s doesn’t have statewide name recognition and she has a lot of fundraising to do. Gillibrand has $10 million in the bank. Long is also a conservative candidate in a state known more for its progressive politics. Republicans haven’t won a statewide seat in New York since 2002.

But regardless of ideology, come November, a woman will still represent New York in the Senate.

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker

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