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Gillibrand and Long square off in only debate in Senate race

Voters got their only chance to watch the candidates for U.S. Senate from New York State debate last night.  The two candidates tangled  on issues ranging from abortion to hydrofracking.The candidates, Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican challenger Wendy Long met on a stage at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, in a debate sponsored by Time Warner Cable.  Long is a longshot in the race, behind the incumbent by 40 percent in some polls.  

The two women sparred on the issue of hydrofracking, with Gillibrand suggesting more study on the impact of the controversial drilling method is needed.

"Before we destroy our clean drinking water that powers two major industries, we should make sure we have all the facts.  We have a right to know the facts," said Gillibrand. "And my question to you is, why don't you want to know the facts.  We have a bill in Congress to get to the bottom of what are the chemicals and they should be disclosed."

Long, a Manhattan attorney, supports hydrofracking, which she says would boost the economy.

"It's been happening for decades in Ohio, in West Virginia.  It's called the gold rush of West Virginia.   The economies in these areas are booming. And guess what, there's been no evidence anywhere that this is polluting any drinking water. These are completely phony concerns," said Long.

On other issues, Gillibrand touted promotion of clean technology to get the state out of its economic doldrums, while Long criticized federal jobs programs, saying the private sector is the best place to grow jobs.

Women's issues also figured prominently -- this is the first time two women have competed for a Senate seat from New York. Long, who is pro-life, questioned why the two were even talking about abortion.

"That is a separate question for state legislators, and as I go around the state, I don't hear anyone talking about the abortion issue," said Long. "My opponent loves to talk about this issue, because she's trying to distract attention from her record on jobs and the economy."   

Gillibrand says that's not true.

"This is not an issue that I raised, it's an issue that was raised by the Republican Congress.  Their first bill that they actually introduced in this Congressional session, was to defund all of Title X, which is that money that is spent for at-risk women for pre-natal care," the senator said.

Gillibrand has a multi-million dollar advantage in fundraising over Long.

This was the only scheduled debate on the campaign schedule in the race for U.S. Senate.

Audio excerpts from the debate are courtesy YNN and Time Warner Cable.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.