By GURVINDER S. GANDU

Republican Wendy Long and her Democratic counterpart in the race for U.S. Senate, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, may be separated by their different political values and opinions, but the two women share similar pasts with one important distinction.

After Dartmouth College made the transition from an all-male institute to co-education  in 1972, Long and Gillibrand were among the initial wave of female students, albeit six years apart, to enroll at the prestigious Ivy League school—where both used journalism to propel their respective careers in politics.

Like Gillibrand, 52-year-old Long is an attorney with experience in private practice. She too, like Gillibrand, has clerked for a federal appeals court judge. (Long also clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.) However, unlike her opponent, Long has never held public office.  As a consequence, she is not well known to the public.

There’s no question that Long was the overwhelming underdog. She defeated a Republican officeholder, Rep. Bob Turner, in the GOP primary. But she steadily trailed Gillibrand in polls by 40 or more percentage points.  Poll data shows that her name recognition, compared to Gillibrand’s, is virtually non-existent.

The Siena Poll found that nearly 67 percent of those surveyed said they had not even heard of Long—which obviously doesn’t bode well for any candidate, in any political race.

“She never ran for office before. She starts with zero. Despite winning the Republican primary that very few Republicans participated in, she still remains unknown,” said the Siena Poll’s Steven Greenberg. “Why? She has no money.”

After managing to raise just $722,020 (not nearly enough to run TV ads, as Long herself said), the Manhattan resident put nearly $57,000 of her own money into her campaign. In fact Long owes money—nearly $250,000 to consultants. Gillibrand  raised $15.5 million, and aired five television ads.

The lack of funds was only a piece of the problem for Long. Long’s emphatic opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage may have been as asset during the Republican primary, but could lack appeal to the bulk of New York voters.

In a state where there are almost twice as many Democrats as Republicans, Gillibrand’s stranglehold on the race shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But despite their argument that Gillibrand is vulnerable and can be beaten, New York Republicans have been unable to produce a Senate candidate who could pose a real threat to the Democrats.

Photo: Wendy Long.