BAY RIDGE — Brooklyn-born Mike Long has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in local and state politics. Long is undoubtedly a pillar within the borough where he served as a city councilmember and ultimately took on the role of New York State Conservative Party chair, a role he only recently retired from.
Long’s career in politics began in 1981 when he was elected to the City Council as member at large for Brooklyn. He served until 1983, when the post was eliminated. In 1988, Long became chair of the New York State Conservative Party, a position he held until his retirement in January 2019.
During his 30 years of service, Long left quite a mark on state politics and had the opportunity to get to know world-renowned political figures, celebrities and presidents of the United States.
He was especially known as the model of a civic leader in the Bay Ridge community, where he and his brother Tom owned Long’s Wines and Liquors at Fifth Avenue and 79th Street.
Long, 79, was a long-time resident of Bay Ridge before recently moving to Breezy Point. He and his wife Eileen have nine children and are parishioners at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church. Long is chair of the Board of Directors at Holy Angels Catholic Academy, a school with strong ties to the parish.
He is a member of the board of directors of the Cathedral Club of Brooklyn and vice chair of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee, and is also a member of the American Legion.
Among the people Long helped are former Gov. George Pataki, former Congressmembers Susan Molinari, Vito Fossella, Michael Grimm and Dan Donovan, and former state Sen. Marty Golden, as well as current Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis.
Long took the time to share some of the fascinating events he’s witnessed and people’s he’s met during his remarkable career.
Spectator: You were a volunteer for Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign and you joined the Conservative Party in 1964. What first drew your attention to politics at that time?
Long: In 1964, I was first attracted to politics through Barry Goldwater’s campaign for president. His outspoken and fierce positions against worldwide communism led me to get involved in the New York State Conservative Party.
Spectator: What was it about the Conservative Party that resonated so strongly with you?
Long: The beliefs and values that the New York State Conservative Party have always enunciated are what led me to my long term involvement in the Conservative movement. Also, it became clear to me that both Democrats and Republicans were not separating themselves on issues.
Spectator: In 1997, under your chairmanship, the Conservative Party helped elect Gov. George Pataki by delivering the amount of votes needed to narrowly defeat his opponent, incumbent Gov. Mario Cuomo. That must have been quite a rewarding feeling.
Long: In 1994, I was proud to be the state chairman of the Conservative Party and to have participated and provided monumental change in the state of New York. By electing Governor George Pataki, the party helped to defeat a liberal icon like Mario Cuomo as governor of the State of New York. That year, the Conservative Party provided the margin of victory for Gov. Pataki and Attorney General Dennis Vacco in New York State.
Spectator: What were some milestone events that occurred during your years as chair of the party?
Long: Throughout the years, as chairman of the party there were many accomplishments. The most significant was the election of the governor and attorney general of the State of New York which created a sea change of policies. These changes benefited the citizens of our great state, and brought about tax cuts, stricter law enforcement policies and a more business-friendly environment for the entire state.
Spectator: President Ronald Reagan once said, “The Conservative Party has established itself as a preeminent force in New York politics and an important part of our political history.” You were friends with Reagan. How did that friendship come about and any interesting stories you might share with us?
Long: In 1975, before his first run for president, I had the honor of introducing him as our featured guest speaker at our state dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, where we spent more than three hours in deep political conversations. In 1980 and again in 1984, I had the honor of serving as a member of the electoral college for the state of New York where I cast the votes for him as president of the United States. Through the years, with many events and activities, I grew to know him personally. Each time I was with him, my admiration grew.
Spectator: What other presidents or heads of state have made a strong impression on you?
Long: Other world leaders that have made great impressions upon me are (former British Prime Minister) Maggie Thatcher and Pope John Paul II.
Spectator: Any other political stories you could talk about?
Long: In 1981-1983, I was a member of the New York City Council. To date, I am the only member of the New York State Conservative Party to serve on the New York City Council.
Spectator: You also continue to serve as chair of Holy Angels Catholic Academy. How important is that role for you?
Long: As chairman of Holy Angels Catholic Academy it was most rewarding to assist in providing an education and a strong faith foundation to students in our academy.
Spectator: Were you ever granted an audience with the pope?
Long: No, I was never granted an audience with the pope but would have enjoyed it.
Spectator: Following the loss of two key seats in the last election, do you think the Conservative and Republican Parties will be able to win back seats in Congress and the Senate?
Long: I strongly believe with the right candidates we can retake the congressional and state senate seats.
Spectator: How do you feel about the state of the Conservative Party today with new State Party Chair Jerry Kassar and Brooklyn’s Chair Fran Vella-Marrone? And how do you view the future of the Conservative Party in the next few years?
Long: I have worked side by side with Jerry Kassar since 1977 and with Fran since 1980. The party couldn’t be in better hands.