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One of 3 challengers to Gillibrand meets with Erie County GOP leader

With New York Republicans set to nominate a candidate in less than three weeks, potential challengers to Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand are scrambling this week for the attention of party leaders.

One of them -- Wendy Long, a Manhattan attorney -- met Wednesday in Buffalo with Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy and others as part of an upstate effort to introduce her candidacy.

"Gov. David Paterson handed [Gillibrand] this new job, where she must have gone into some kind of political witness protection plan and come out such a liberal," Long said, referring to her appointment to the seat left vacant when Hillary Rodham Clinton became U.S. secretary of state. "She has taken it to such an extent that she's a cheerleader for the Obama agenda and beyond."

She was joined in the race Wednesday by Joe Carvin, the supervisor of the Westchester County Town of Rye, who announced he will take on the Democratic senator who won a special election in 2010 to fill the rest of Clinton's term, which expires in January.

"I have decided to run for the office of U.S. Senate because I believe that our representatives in Washington have provided us with an economic framework that severely undermines our competitive position in the world today," said Carvin, an agricultural investor.

Carvin and Long appear ready to challenge George Maragos, the Nassau County comptroller who has been exploring a candidacy for months. The trio's suddenly intense presence on the statewide political scene reflects the urgency of the situation, since Republicans will hold their state convention March 16 in Rochester.

Long, 51, garnered attention Wednesday in Western New York after a tour of upstate counties that has gained some success. She was endorsed Tuesday by Onondaga County Republican Chairman Thomas V. Dadey Jr. and Wednesday by Wayne County Conservative Chairman Jim Quinn.

A Dartmouth College graduate who has served on the staff of two U.S. senators and as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Long cites a new National Journal survey painting Gillibrand as the most liberal senator.

She said she does not believe the incumbent is doing a good job. She criticized what she calls her metamorphosis from a moderate upstate congresswoman who once favored "fiscal responsibility and Second Amendment rights."

She attacked Gillibrand's support for President Obama's plan to provide free birth control for employees of religious institutions opposed to the practice, calling it a "heavy-handed requirement that dictated to churches."

Long acknowledged the difficulty of mounting a Republican run against a well-funded incumbent in overwhelmingly Democratic New York. But she said her conservative agenda has worked in the past for statewide Republicans, and she thinks it can again.

"This first visit is about being here to listen," she said, acknowledging this is the first time she has been in Buffalo. "But obviously what I hear is jobs, jobs, jobs and about the heavy hand of Washington and over-regulation."

Langworthy said he and other local Republicans have made no endorsement yet.