Skidmore College to host Gillibrand-Long senator debate: The debate will be the only one of its kind this campaign season

Posted by Sarah Rose-Slate

On Oct. 17 at 7 p.m., the candidates for the U.S. Senate seat for New York, incumbent senator Kirsten Gillibrand and her Republican opponent Wendy Long, will face off at Skidmore in a debate to be held at the Zankel Music Center. The debate held on campus is the only one the candidates have agreed to participate in. The debate is sponsored by YNN and NY1, and will be co-moderated by Capital Tonight host Liz Benjamin and NY1 political anchor Errol Louis.

Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic incumbent, was elected to Senate in 2010. A former congresswoman, she was appointed senator in 2009, filling Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's vacated seat. In 2010, she won an election for the rest of the six-year term, beating Republican Joseph J. DioGuardi.

As a member of the Senate, Gillibrand has been an advocate for the repeal of the law that banned homosexuals from openly serving in the military, which ended during her term in 2010. Gillibrand also helped passed an initiative to provide health care for rescue workers who were sickened by smoke and fumes during the attack on the World Trade Center. Before the Senate, Gillibrand served in the House of Representatives, where she voted in 2007 to withdraw troops from Iraq and voted against the Wall Street bailout bill. She has shifted her views somewhat since becoming a Senator, as she has become a supporter of amnesty for illegal immigrants as well as a supporter of gun control.

Gillibrand's opponent, Manhattan lawyer and Republican Wendy Long, will challenge Gillibrand for the Senate seat. Long has served as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and on the counsel for a conservative group that supported judicial nominees. She was nominated for Senate by the Conservative Party, helping Long beat her opponents in the Republican primary in order to challenge Gillibrand in the upcoming election.

Long's stance calls for cutting taxes, reducing regulation, and cutting spending in order to balance the budget. While Gillibrand focuses on bringing transparency and openness to her position as Senator, Long champions the idea of a limited self-government that follows the original principles of the Constitution.

The two candidates also disagree on reproductive rights. Gillibrand has stood by her decision that women should have the right to choose and defends women's right to access reproductive health care. Long, on the other hand, has said she is pro-life and has worked in the past for anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

The process of deciding to hold the debate at the College and preparing for the event has been extensive. Interim Dean of Special Programs Paul Calhoun says New York-based news station YNN originally contacted the College in efforts to hold the debate on campus, consulting first with Director of Media Relations Andrea Wise. Michelle Curran, Zankel Music Center's concerts and events manager, and the President's Office helped organize the event. The President's cabinet, in conjunction with the Office of Student Affairs, met to coordinate the technical requirements for the debate: power, lighting, and sound, as well as ticketing, catering, facilities and parking. The office of Student Affairs met three times to discuss the event as well.

"The process was a smooth and cooperative one with few complications," said Calhoun.

Response to the debate on campus has been positive, with tickets to the debate selling out within 36 hours. Due to the high demand, the school has decided to broadcast the debate in Davis, Gannett and Emerson auditoriums for people without tickets.

The Senate debate on campus punctuates a rise in political involvement among members of the college and surrounding community. A Pro-Choice rally will be held prior to the debate at 5 p.m. and will gather at the College's main Broadway entrance. Among the groups involved in the rally is NARAL Pro-Choice New York, a political and advocacy organization that advocates for women's reproductive rights. There will also be Voter Pledge Campaign tables in the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall and Case Center encouraging students to vote.

Skidmore Student Emily Rooke-Ley '14, who is involved in campus political and social advocacy groups, noted the importance of the debate being held on campus and being open to the public.

"A lot of important issues such as a woman's right to make their own decisions on healthcare, student loan availability, universal health coverage and energy policy will be decided in this election. Students should get out and vote so they have a say in their future," Rooke-Ley said. 

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