We’ve compiled a handy guide to some key races here on Long Island, including the two senate races, the race for governor and a local state senate race that will be among the closest in the state. Check out all of our coverage from Election Day in a special segment, VoteSB.

US Senate Race: Kirsten Gillibrand (D) and Joseph DioGuardi (R)

Running for this seat is incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, of the Democratic Party, and Joe DioGuardi, of the Republican Party.

by Aleks Gilbert

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is facing a special election after she was appointed by Gov. Paterson to finish former Senator Clinton’s term in office.

On January 21, 2009, Hillary Clinton resigned her New York senate seat to become the Secretary of State in President Obama’s administration. The vacancy was filled two days later when governor David Patterson appointed Kirsten E. Gillibrand, after considering big names such as Andrew Cuomo and Caroline Kennedy.

Gillibrand was born and raised in rural Upstate New York, and from an early age was exposed to politics. Her father was a democratic lobbyist, while her maternal grandmother was an activist for women’s rights. Gillibrand cites her as an inspiration for becoming a politician: “What I admired so much about her was her passion. I thought, ‘Someday I may serve, someday I may be part of this.’ “

Gillibrand, though of the Democratic Party, has been described as a centrist in the past: “She has supported balanced budget amendments, opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants and voted against withholding funds to prosecute the war in Iraq.”She has also received a 100% approval rating from the National Rifle Association. However, since her appointment to the senate seat, her political inclination has become more leftist.

Gillibrand has been running on a platform of government transparency (“I became the first member of Congress to post my schedule, my financial disclosures and my earmark requests all online.”), and tax cuts for the middle class. Ontheissues.com characterizes her as a “populist-leaning liberal” based on the stances she takes on various issues.

Republican Joe DioGuardi is facing an uphill battle against incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Joseph DioGuardi is a Certified Public Accountant, as well as a former congressman, having served in the House of Representatives from 1985-1989. As a congressman he authored the Chief Financial Officer and Federal Financial Reform Act, which “establishes a leadership structure, provides for long-range planning, requires audited financial statements, and strengthens accountability reporting.” He also initiated legislation to confer the Medal of Honor on African-American war heroes who had been recommended but had not received the award (not one African-American had received the award prior to his intervention).

DioGuardi’s campaign platform is centered around fiscal responsibility. His website highlights the fact that he’s a professional accountant and his expertise is essential to balancing the budget. On the front page of his website, he states that his priorities are: fiscal responsibility, national debt and tax reform. He also wants to institute term limits as well as a balanced budget amendment to the constitution.

He is of Arbëreshë descent(an Albanian community that fled to Italy in the 16th century to avoid Ottoman oppression), and he is the father of American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi.

Senate terms last six years, but only two years after accepting the position, Kirsten Gillibrand has to campaign to remain senator. When Hillary Clinton left the senate, Governor Patterson had to appoint someone to fill her position until a special election could be held to determine who would hold the seat until the end of the term that Clinton had never finished, which ends in 2013. Gillibrand, having never been elected, was slotted in the 2010 cycle as a special election.

In the democratic primary, Gillibrand beat Gail Goode with 76% of the vote. DioGuardi on the other hand, had to “petition his way on to the ballot after failing to muster enough party support at the state convention.” In the primary he got 42% of the vote, beating David Malpass and Bruce Blakeman, who got 38 and 21% of the vote, respectively.

The most recent projections from Nate Silver’s 538 blog in the New York Times has Gillibrand winning 58.4% of the vote to DioGuardi’s 38.7%. It also has her chances of winning the seat at 100%. According to the New York Times, “DioGuardi trails in polls, name recognition and fundraising. But [DioGuardi]… scoffed at the notion that the money gap will be a problem. ‘I’m a come-from-behind guy. I don’t mind being the underdog’ DioGuardi said in a phone interview with the Associated Press.”

US Senate Race: Charles Schumer (D) and Jay Townsend (R)

Popular Senator Charles Schumer could face an even tougher race after November 2: that for Senate Majority Leader.

by Rachel Clark

Chuck Schumer’s toughest race isn’t for reelection; if Harry Reid loses in Nevada, it will be for Senate Majority Leader.

Democratic Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer is seeking a third term in the Senate, where he has served since 1998. In his previous two terms, Schumer served as Chairman of the Joint Finance committee and Democratic Senate Campaign committee; he is currently Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.

While in office, Schumer has made education a priority, helping to pass legislation making up to $4000 in college tuition tax deductible as well as supporting a $2500 tax credit for families with a child in college. In another move that may be seen less favorably by some students, he was one of four Senators to suggest that alcoholic energy drinks such as Four Loko could be dangerous and, to demand that the FDA investigate their safety.

In the last Congress, Schumer received a perfect rating from the Defenders of Wildlife and Environment America, reflecting his ‘green’ policymaking. He supported the Obama healthcare plan and economic stimulus; overall, he has voted with the Democratic party 98% of the time.

If Schumer wins reelection, the Democrats retain control of Congress, and current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid loses reelection in Nevada–all of which are more likely than not to occur–Schumer would become one of two frontrunners to become the next Senate Majority Leader. The other candidate, Dick Durbin of Illinois, is the second-ranked Democrat in the senate.

Of all the candidates running in New York, none may be a bigger long shot than Jay Townsend.

Schumer’s Republican opponent, business owner and George Pataki endorsee Jay Townsend, is a Tea Party affiliate who chose to enter the Senate race due to his “disgust with the course of our nation and decline of New York.”

Townsend has pledged to support the repeal of the recently passed healthcare reform plan, opposes cap-and-trade plans, and has signed both the Tea Party’s Contract From America and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste’s No Pork Pledge. He believes that the U.S. is the “greatest force for good that the world has ever seen,” according to his website, and as a result believes it is important to increase defense spending to maintain a “robust military that remains the envy of the world.”

Requests for comment on the issue of education went unreturned.

As of October 25th, Schumer has an estimated 100% chance of winning, according to polling aggregation website FiveThirtyEight.

State Senate Race: Brian Foley (D) and Lee Zeldin (R)

Freshman Senator Brian Foley is facing a tough reelection only two years after unseating 18 time incumbent Caesar Trunzo.

by Doug Newman

Brian Foley unseated the incumbent in 2008. This year he may be on the receiving end.

Incumbent State Senator Brian Foley positions himself as a centrist, reform-minded Democrat. He has been surprisingly successful in breaking into formerly Republican-dominated offices, starting when he was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor in 2005, and then State Senator in 2008.

In both those elections he presented himself as the candidate of change and reform in an atmosphere where local Republicans were tainted by allegations of corruption, and Democrats pointed to these elections as strong signs that the once solidly Republican Suffolk County was turning in their favor.

Foley voted in favor of the failed same-sex marriage bill in 2009 (after being criticized for not taking a public position until the eleventh hour), and has been a leading proponent of the controversial and so far unsuccessful Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, which critics claim amounts to a de facto privatization of SUNY and CUNY. But his biggest liability may be his vote in favor of the hated MTA payroll tax, along with general anti-incumbent sentiment. It remains to be seen whether voters will still see him as part of the solution and not the problem after two long years in the Albany muck.

Many local residents will have some familiarity with Lee Zeldin from his failed attempt to unseat Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in 2008. This time Zeldin has set his sights a little lower on what is undoubtedly a much more attainable office.

A youthful Iraq War veteran, Zeldin makes much of his status as such and as a Captain in the Army Reserve. Zeldin’s key issues are lower taxes and corruption in Albany. He paints himself as someone who has the real interests of Suffolk County residents in mind and Foley as a tax raiser who is beholden to the state’s New York City-oriented Democratic leadership.

Zeldin ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 2008. Now he’s back, and has his sights set a bit lower.

He opposes same-sex marriage, and his higher education proposals seem limited to giving veterans free SUNY or CUNY tuition. Zeldin has embraced Suffolk’s very visible Tea Party movement; one wonders whether this might turn off swing voters, as might Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino up-ticket. On the other hand, Zeldin seems to have succeeded in energizing a Republican base in the district that perhaps runs deeper than any Foley could tap.

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