NEW YORK CITY— Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sparred with her little-known Republican challenger Wendy Long at their one and only debate Wednesday night, which covered everything from the Vito Lopez scandal to the erotic novels "Fifty Shades of Grey."
During a "lightning round" of 'yes' and 'no' questions, moderator Liz Benjamin asked the women if they had read the steamy E L James national best sellers, sparking giggles from Gillibrand and a burst of laughter from the crowd.
"No," said Long with a laugh.
"No," agreed Gillibrand.
Benjamin, of YNN, admitted that she hadn't either, while her fellow moderator, Errol Louis of NY1, waved his hands and said, "No comment."
Long, who is 40 points behind Gillibrand in the polls, tried to use the occasion to make an impression on voters, pulling no punches in her attacks at the debate at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs hosted by NY1 and YNN.
Long jabbed Gillibrand and fellow Democrats on everything from spending to ethics troubles, and called out State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, for allowing Lopez to use taxpayer dollars to settle sexual harassment allegations against women working in his office.
"There is a war in women going on in this state," said Long. "Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, instead of addressing the matter, instead of bringing it to light and trying to remedy it, instead took over $100,000 in taxpayer money and used it as hush money to try to keep these young women quiet.
"To my way of thinking, this is a big scandal."
Gillibrand refused to echo a call from Long for Silver's resignation, but slammed his handling of the incident.
"Vito Lopez should have paid those fines himself. Taxpayer money should not have been used," said Gillibrand, who also slammed Lopez's alleged actions as "outrageous" and disgraceful."
She said she would reserve further judgment until the end of state investigations.
The heated debate also included lengthy exchanges on the economy, hydrofracking, the president's handling of the attack in Libya and access to contraception.
Voters will have their chance to decide on Election Day, Nov. 6.