Wendy Long is criss-crossing the state to spread her message — one she hopes will lead to a major upset in November’s election.
Long, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, is challenging U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer. Political prognosticators rate the race “safe Democratic.” A Siena Research Institute poll released Wednesday found Long trails Schumer, D-N.Y., by 39 points.
Schumer is seeking a fourth term and if he wins re-election, he’s on track to become the top Senate Democrat — and possibly the next Senate majority leader.
That isn’t stopping Long from criticizing Schumer — she calls him “Corrupt Chuck” — and traveling around the state. She was in Cayuga County and central New York last week before heading to Rochester for meetings.
“If I didn’t have to do anything else and all I could do is travel around and talk to people, that’s what I would do, which is what I’ve been doing,” Long said during a 30-minute interview with The Citizen. “Doing a little press, but mostly just meeting people, hearing what they’re thinking, especially about what’s going on in Washington.”
Throughout the state, Long is hearing similar issues raised by voters. These issues all have some link to the economy, she said. There are concerns about the impact of the Affordable Care Act and health insurance rates. Keeping manufacturing jobs in upstate New York is also a big issue. The heroin epidemic is on that list, too.
“Drug addiction is rampant,” Long said. “It’s really scary.”
Here is the (lightly edited) Q&A with Long:
The Citizen: The heroin epidemic here is an issue that has touched many families. What can be done at the federal level to address this problem in upstate New York?
Long: The best answer is that things like this are best handled as close to the people and communities as you can. Any time something is managed from afar from Washington I think you lose a lot of being able to be responsive and to tailor things. I think a lot of this is based on breakdown of families, breakdown of communities and those are things that have to be handled locally.
Now, that said, it’s a nationwide problem and there certainly is room for federal help. I don’t think it should be federal dictation. There can’t be heavy handed management of this because there are different sources of the problem. Part of it is physicians overprescribing prescription drugs. There’s that piece of it. And then there’s the piece of controlling our borders and controlling the stuff that’s coming in here.
One of the best things, frankly, I think Washington can do is fix the economy and get our economy growing again so that people can be employed. part of this is there’s a real sense of hopelessness. When you’re unemployed, when you’re a student racking up lots of debt and there’s no signs of gainful employment on the other end of that. There are a lot of factors that drive people to turn to drugs and we have to eliminate some of those causes.
Now, in terms of addressing it once it’s happened, if we take care of the borders, take care of trying to keep the drugs out of this country, if we can get our economy growing again, which is everything we’ve been doing for certainly the last decade and longer — certainly under Obama, Schumer and Clinton — is wrong. We need to allow the economy to grow … That’s reducing taxes, revising the tax code, making it a pro-growth tax code, giving incentives to businesses, private enterprise to get going, regulatory structure. All the things that we’ve been talking about for so long. It really does work. We’re going to keep talking about it until we do it because we know it works.
Once you do that, I think that there is room for federal funding (to address heroin addiction). Any time we talk about federal funding — we have to reduce federal funding overall. We’re approaching a $20 trillion debt, so we can’t just throw lots of money at stuff willy-nilly. But the problem is there’s so much waste and misallocation that if we get a lot smarter about how we spend federal dollars, I think there would be room to spend it on things that really are a genuine crisis. I’ve been talking to people around New York state who have some knowledge of various federal agencies and things that are going on. They have horrendous stories of waste and fraud to tell. We aren’t tackling that problem. If we could get our arms around that, we’d be able to address things like the drug crisis.
The Citizen: When we interviewed Donald Trump in April, we asked him about how he would balance the need for a wall and bolstering border security with the needs of upstate New York’s farmers. A big issue for the farmers is labor. They can’t get enough of it from around here, so they need to look elsewhere. How do you balance those two concerns?
Long: I don’t think they’re balanced. I think they’re complementary. I think they help each other. There’s no antagonism there. Once you get control of your borders and you know who is coming in, you not only know who’s coming in, you control who is coming in … We don’t just need to know who is coming in, we need to fix who is coming in and control who is coming in. One group of persons who our farmers right now need to come in are guest workers, seasonal workers. And that’s fine! They need to do it legally. And when they’re doing it legally and we’ve got a program and we know who’s coming in and they go out and in when they’re supposed to, it’s all legal. It’s all organized to the benefit of this country and her employers. It’s fine. It’ll work.
There’s another little piece of it, too, which is when I was a kid, when I was a teenager, I picked apples. I picked berries. I shoveled stalls. Call me old fashioned, but you know what? I think a lot of teenagers who are playing “Pokemon” and chasing … they should be doing some of that work.
The Citizen: You have mentioned self-imposing term limits. (Long said, if elected, she will serve no more than two terms in the Senate.) Why do you view that as important? (Note: Her position on term limits is the No. 1 item in her “contract” with New Yorkers published on her website.)
Long: It’s point number one because I think all of our other problems, in a way, are derivative of this problem, which is we have got an entrenched, self-anointed establishment in Washington that has become untouchable and unresponsive and really seeks to perpetuate itself more than to serve the people. This is on both sides of the aisle. This is a bipartisan issue. It’s Republicans and Democrats, but in this state our people in Washington happen to be Democrats and Chuck Schumer is the poster child of that establishment. He’s a hatchling of this rigged system and nobody is going to fix the rigged system who was hatched and brought up in the rigged system and that’s Schumer.
When you have that mentality, it’s a very different vision than what our founders thought of when they came up with this idea of self-government, which was citizens would govern themselves. They’d take turns. They’d go to Washington and serve for awhile and then they’d go back … When you’re somebody like Chuck Schumer, the masters he serves as his big donors who have given him the $27 million he has right now. That’s hedge funds and it’s Wall Street. It’s big corporate America. It’s the big plaintiffs’ law firms. It’s big immigration interests because he’s Mr. Open Borders. This is the definition of corruption. I know some people may be shocked at that word, but it really is. It’s when people are serving your financial interests, filling your campaign coffers seeking to perpetuate yourself and you are doing their bidding. We need to break the hold on that and I think the way to do it is term limits.
I think another way to do it is I would enact legislation to ban lobbying once you’ve served in Congress. You are banned for life from profiting by lobbying Congress … You can express your opinions, but you can’t profit from your service.
The Citizen: There are many infrastructure needs in central New York, whether it’s water infrastructure or making repairs to bridges and roads. As someone who’s running for U.S. Senate, what more can be done to address these issues at the federal level?
Long: Infrastructure is a huge issue and Donald Trump has talked about this a lot. I feel this way, too. It goes directly to being able to have a vibrant and thriving private economy. If we have a bad infrastructure that affects all of our businesses, it affects our ability to be productive. Not to mention quality of life for citizens who may have issues with lead water pipes or whatever it is — their vehicles are hitting lots of potholes and they’re paying for lots of extra repairs on their trucks and their cars. So, infrastructure is a huge issue and it’s something we have to address and I think we need to do it the right way, which is you approach it in kind of a Donald Trump way. When things are going wrong in New York City and the city was throwing millions and millions of dollars at a particular issue and equipment was lying around on the ground, money was being wasted, things weren’t being fixed. You approach it in a business-like way as to what’s the problem, what’s the cost, how can we fix it in the most cost-effective way, run it like a business, manage it like a business and get it done.
But it’s definitely a government responsibility. National defense, security the border, building infrastructure — these are government responsibilities. I think when we get government out of the business of things where it doesn’t belong, like corporate welfare, I think we’ll be able to focus on the unique tasks that do belong that are the purview of government. Infrastructure is definitely one of them and I would prioritize that. I think part of it is, too, that New York sends a lot in taxes to Washington and for quite some time — this goes back to Daniel Patrick Moynihan who talked about it years ago — we aren’t getting back what we send. We need to focus on that.
The Citizen: A Republican hasn’t won a statewide election since the early 2000s. Why can that change this year?
Long: I think it’s possible. The climate is much better now than it was four years ago for a variety of reasons. One factor is the Trump factor. Here in New York, Trump, Schumer, Clinton and I are all New Yorkers. All four of us are New Yorkers, although Clinton is a carpetbagger. The point is this is a kind of New York state-focused race in a way. Trump and Sanders just kind of opened the lid on the entrenched establishment issue and I think that was a very valuable service.
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