The New York Conservative Party, frequently dubbed the most influential and successful third party in any of the 50 states, celebrated its 57th birthday in Manhattan Thursday night.
In 1970, the Conservative Party made history by electing James Buckley as the last U.S. Senator from a third party. It secured the election of registered Conservative Bill Carney to the House in 1978, and former State Conservative State Chairman Serph Maltese as state senator in 1988.
But the annual “birthday party” in 2019 was extra special. More than 400 active Conservative members, office-holders, and past and present office-seekers jammed the Sheraton Park Hotel to hail the man most of them say got them to where they are: Mike Long, State chairman for more than three decades (1988-2019.)
Speaker after speaker, as well as letters from former Republican Gov. George Pataki and President Donald Trump, recalled how Long — high school dropout, two-fisted U.S. Marine, owner of candy and liquor stores, and father of nine — helped the party secure Row C (the third line on the Empire State) and made its cross-endorsement of Republican nominees a necessity for winning almost any office in New York.
(New York is one of five states that permits cross-endorsement — that is, candidates of one party to appear on another ballot line and their votes counted aggregately. With the Conservative line a “must” for winning Republicans, only two GOP U.S. House Members from New York have been elected in modern times without the Conservative line)
Noting that Long’s family has grown to 24 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, the president wrote that after so many years “of trying to make the world a better place for his grandchildren, Mike Long deserves the time to enjoy them.”
The highlight of the event was Long’s introduction by former Sen. James Buckley, elected on the Conservative line alone over the two major party nominees in 1970.
Buckley, who managed the campaign of “my exotic brother Bill” as the Conservative nominee for mayor of New York in 1965, is the last person anywhere to be elected to the Senate on a third party ticket.
Now 96 and revered as a “living legend” by Conservatives, Buckley recalled the changes in a state Republican Party dominated by liberals such as Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Sen. Jacob Javits, and New York Mayor John Lindsay to one in which Conservative Chairman Long has a “seat at the table” with the Republican leadership in the state.
Underscoring Buckley’s point was the presence at the head table of former State GOP Chairman Ed Cox and current Chairman Nick Langworthy.
The ever-thoughtful Buckley also warned that “we are now sailing in dangerous waters,” that New York is “bluer than ever,” and younger voters suffer from what he called “historic amnesia.”
“Millennials remember the bad things in history such as slavery and treatment of the Indians,” said the former senator and U.S. Court of Appeals, but forget that the American capitalist system gave them opportunities unknown to previous generations.
Others spoke of a future with opportunity for a conservative revival, despite New York’s apparent trend to the left.
“We know there are 3 million more Democrats (in New York) than voters in any other party,” said former Sen. Al D’Amato, R.-C.-NY, who won three terms from 1980 to '98 with the Conservative ballot line, “but look at all the crazy things the left is trying to do to us!”
He was clearly referring to increased regulatory measures, higher taxes, and liberalized abortion laws that might just get New Yorkers furious enough to abandon the Democratic Party of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Making the extravaganza an extra special one was the presence of younger Conservative Party Members as well as young women running for or considering bids for office. On hand was Chele Farley, a private equity investor who was the Republican-Conservative nominee for U.S. Senator last year and now running against Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney, and Julie Killian, who carried both the GOP and Conservative ballot lines for lieutenant governor in 2018.
Mike Long has served as the state chairman of a political party in New York longer than anyone and has been Conservative Chairman longer than his four predecessors combined.
“But don’t worry,” said current Conservative Chairman Jerry Kassar, “Mike might be retired but he’ll still be around to express his opinion. You can count on that.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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