By KRYSTAL DANIEL

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican opponent Wendy Long clashed last Wednesday at their only public debate before the Nov. 6 election, trading points over the economy, women’s rights, natural gas exploration  and immigration.

When asked about the economy, Gillibrand responded, “The quickest way to pay down the debt and deficit is create a growing economy.

“That means cutting taxes… and making sure small businesses have the loans they need. It also means rewarding our U.S.-based manufacturers; we want to see made in America…We do have tough choices to make, we have to do it precisely and carefully. We cannot have a slash only approach.”

Long fired back like a cannon, saying, “She talks about cutting taxes and getting small businesses the loans they need but she hasn’t done any of these things.” She added: “Her idea of making a loan is taking money from taxpayers and giving it out to her favorite groups.”

Long’s voice was full of authority and assurance as she assailed the senator, bluntly attacking any point Gillibrand made.  On the contrary, Gillibrand responded to questions in a calm and almost whimsical voice, sometimes not even bothering to rebut Long’s accusations that she hasn’t done enough to help New York’s economy

Their fire and ice exchanges  suggest  that Long is outmatched in many ways by Gillibrand’s incumbency and that this debate was vital for Long  to get her viewpoints before voters.

Campaign finance reports show that Gillibrand amassed over $15 million for her reelection campaign while Long raised just a little over $600,000. So far Gillibrand has not been hesitant to spend in order to ensure a six-year Senate term. According to the latest report filed with  the Federal Election Commission, Gillibrand spent about $12.5 million.

Gillibrand is spending heavily on statewide television advertising including a pricey spot during the Yankees playoff game. The advertisement reiterated Gillibrand’s support of the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, which was passed to guarantee medical coverage for those affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Gillibrand’s advertising campaign also promotes her viewpoint on women’s issues, some which are strongly opposed by Long. A recent television commercial highlighted Gillibrand’s victories on equal rights in the workplace for women and her goals to prioritize childhood obesity, and asthma and autism rates. It also promotes her stance on abortion.

Gillibrand is pro-choice and believes that national legislation should always protect a woman’s right to choose.  Long is anti-abortion.

“I believe every single human being from conception to natural death has a right to life,” Long said during the debate at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. “I believe when I see those little pictures on the ultrasounds, that’s a human being and they are entitled to respect.”

Long said Gillibrand “loves” to talk about abortion to evade “her terrible record on jobs and the economy.”

Polls conducted by the Siena Research Institute and the Quinnipiac Research Institute show Gillibrand well ahead – about 40 percentage points.

Alan Spiegelman, 62, a Democrat and life-long New York City resident who acknowledged he has never crossed party lines, said money alone doesn’t elect a candidate.  “Just because someone is in office doesn’t mean they will stay in office because they have money,” he said. ”They must address the issues that are important.”

Gillibrand supported a law that  made it illegal for members of Congress, their family and staff to trade information for their own financial interests.

She also strongly opposed the Blunt Amendment, which would give employers, religious or not, the power to deny employees the right to contraceptive services.

As the debate ended, Gillibrand expressed gratitude to all involved and pledged to create more opportunities.. Long  reiterated her pledge to make New York more prosperous, only to end on a lighter note, exclaiming, “Go Yankees.”