Still fresh from her June 26 Republican primary victory, Wendy Long greets me at the door of her Carnegie Hill apartment. Along with Rosie, her family’s yellow Labrador, she welcomes me into her inviting and tastefully decorated living room. Noticeable on the coffee table is Churchill biographer Martin Gilbert’s book, Churchill.
Winston Churchill is worthy inspiration as Wendy challenges incumbent U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the November election. As a Democrat, Gillibrand has a built-in advantage given New York’s demographics and voter registration. While Wendy acknowledges that New York is indeed a “blue state,” she points to the fact that Republicans can win in New York citing Reagan, D’Amato and Pataki as examples.
Before the campaign kicks up in full gear, I asked Wendy to share her thoughts on why she chose to run at this time and what she sees as the issues of most importance to New York voters. (Photo above after victory speech, from left, GOP Chairman Ed Cox, Wendy Long, New York Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis from Staten Island, and New York Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, no relation).
As Wendy explains, “I have a strong conviction that we are on the wrong track. Government is way too intrusive. We need less government intrusion, lower taxes and less regulation, to create jobs and opportunity for everyone. People should be able to decide how best to spend their money and raise their families and run their businesses. They should have a range of affordable health-care choices, not central planning by the government. This is a message that resonates not only with Republicans, but with many Democrats and Independents too.”
Both Wendy’s background and life experiences have honed her philosophy on government and the role of the Constitution. Wendy grew up in New Hampshire (the “Live Free or Die State”), but has spent the last 14 years living in Manhattan with her husband Arthur Long, a life-long New Yorker and a partner at Davis, Polk and Wardwell. The couple has two children: a son Arthur, 12, and a daughter Mado, 9.
Graduating from Dartmouth during the Reagan years, Wendy worked as a press secretary for U.S. Senators: Bill Armstrong (R-CO) and Gordon Humphrey (R-NH). Her experience as a press secretary fostered an interest in the Constitution and led to Wendy’s decision to go to law school. She graduated from Northwestern University School of Law with honors (Order of the Coif), spending her third year at Harvard Law School.
The Harvard experience was critical in Wendy’s life. One of her favorite professors there was Mary Anne Glendon. Glendon, a former ambassador to the Vatican, played an instrumental role in Wendy’s spiritual and academic life, and the two remain close. Wendy converted to Catholicism during her third year of law school. Today Wendy is a big booster of the Catholic Church. As she puts it, “The Catholic Church has had such a great role in New York, educating, feeding, clothing, and nursing so many bodies as well as souls. An institution that has given us so much deserves our respect.” (Photo above, Wendy and her husband, Arthur).
The U.S. Supreme Court Experience
Immediately after law school, Wendy clerked for federal appeals court judge, Ralph Winter. Winter had clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and is described by Wendy as a “brilliant man and great teacher.” Winter is also an adjunct professor at Yale Law School. Her experience with Winter was followed by a clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court with Justice Clarence Thomas.
As one of four clerks for Justice Thomas, Wendy and her fellow clerks followed the long-standing Court tradition of taking the other eight justices to lunch. Sharing some of her personal memories of the Justices, Wendy recalls that then Chief Justice William Rehnquist liked a Washington restaurant called The Monocle and habitually would have one Miller Lite beer with lunch followed by one cigarette after his meal. Justice Stephen Breyer liked to lunch at a favorite Mexican restaurant and was always a lot of fun. Justice Ginsberg didn’t do lunch but instead would have the clerks to her office for tea and cookies, which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would point out had been baked by her husband. To keep it all healthy, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor led an aerobics class at the Court. And despite their different judicial philosophies, Wendy notes that Justice John Paul Stevens and Justice Thomas were personally close. (Photo above: Speech at the New York State Republican Convention, Rochester, March 16, 2012).
Wendy shares her admiration for Thomas noting that, “He [Thomas] is dedicated to the Constitution and doesn’t care what anybody on the outside thinks.” Judicial independence is something Wendy feels passionately about as she opines, “Unfortunately judges have become responsive to political pressure. Lady Justice needs to wear a blindfold without thinking of the political ramifications.” She found the recent 5-4 decision upholding the constitutionality of so-called Obamacare “heartbreaking.” She felt that Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion aimed to de-politicize the Court but the result of the decision was an overstep of the Court’s judicial bounds. (Photo above, Wendy with New York Congresswoman Nan Hayworth).
On completing her clerkship, Wendy worked as a litigation partner at Kirkland and Ellis before deciding to become a full-time mom. “I feel very fortunate to have this time being a full-time mother. It’s hard in our current society with the cell phones and computer games and Facebook to protect the innocence and quiet time that should be part of childhood…and it’s hard these days to raise kids with character and virtue,” she notes. “There’s no more important work than this.”
As Wendy Long embarks on a challenging Senate race she succinctly rattles off the issues she wants to address with New York voters: 1) the economy; 2) the effect of the New York regulatory environment on jobs and job creation; and, 3) specific to job creation, the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act. On this latter issue, Wendy would like to hold a debate with Kirsten Gillibrand solely focused on Dodd-Frank’s impact. (The Dodd-Frank Act, passed by Congress two years ago, was an attempt to address comprehensive financial regulatory reform. The Act affects the oversight and supervision of financial institutions.) Wendy believes that Dodd-Frank makes things worse for New York job creation and argues, “Ninety percent of Dodd-Frank is unresponsive to the 2008 financial crisis. Regulators should focus on catching the next Bernie Madoff, not on arguing among themselves how to interpret wrong-headed rules that no one can understand and that don’t protect American consumers or business at all.” (Photo above: Republican Convention in Rochester, March 16 2012, Wendy with her children Arthur and Mado, Onondaga GOP Chairman Tom Dadey and friend Laura Ingraham).
As I get ready to leave her apartment, Wendy offers a final thought regarding her political philosophy, “I am the same person now that I was when I graduated from law school. I believe that America and our Constitution are the greatest system of government, self-government, in the history of the world. And I have the feeling that the America and the New York that I loved as a girl may not be recognizable for my children and their children, unless we work much harder to preserve what makes them great.”
Politics and philosophy are indeed related. To get a better appreciation for the intersection of politics and philosophy Wendy recommends a book by her former Harvard Law School professor, Mary Ann Glendon, The Forum and the Tower: How Politicians have imagined the World from Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt. (Photo above: with former New York State Governor George Pataki).
Woman Around Town’s Six Questions
Favorite Place to Eat: I don’t have just one… there are so many great ones. I love the “old New York” places, like Isle of Capri, and great new neighborhood places like Tre Otto.
Favorite Place to Shop: Edit on Lexington Avenue in Carnegie Hill, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Thrift Shop, and all the fantastic Manhattan consignment and thrift shops; J.Press for my husband; Holland Court in Carnegie Hill for meat; Pisacane on First Avenue for fish, and for home decorating, Urban Archaeology and Olde Good Things.
Favorite New York Sight: Sitting with my family watching the Staten Island Yankees play ball and seeing New York harbor and the Manhattan skyline behind the field. Also, just watching all the different dogs playing in Central Park. The more dogs and the more kids, the better.
Favorite New York Moment: When they play Frank Sinatra singing, “New York, New York” after the game at Yankee Stadium, and singing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch.
What You Love About New York: The churches, especially St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Church of Our Savior, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Thomas More, and St. Vincent de Paul on 23rd Street. In general, I agree with Cole Porter: “The more I know New York, the more I think of it.” His song says it all. There is always something more to love here – the history, the buildings, the culture, the arts, the industry, and the characters that have been a part of this city. You could spend a lifetime and just scratch the surface.
What You Hate About New York: I drive myself and my family around the city a lot, and the traffic and parking problems only seem to get worse. Also, the cabs these days leave a lot to be desired. I remember when I was a little girl the wonderful checker cabs with the jump seats. They were so roomy and wonderful and full of character… so New York.