Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) with his wife, Kathy by his side gives the thumbs at the Islandia Marriott on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010, in Islandia, N.Y.
It was the last congressional race in the country to be decided in 2010.
Now, the Democratic incumbent who eked out a 593-vote victory and the millionaire Republican challenger are preparing for a blistering rematch in 2012, vying to represent a diverse eastern Long Island district that encompasses suburbia, rural wineries, and the high-end Hamptons.
“Nothing should be taken for granted; this is not going to be a walk in the park,” said five-term U.S. Rep. Timothy Bishop, a former college administrator. “We’re expecting an extremely difficult race and preparing for that. I have a very tough road.”
Already signaling his intention to run another aggressive campaign, millionaire businessman Randy Altschuler said: “I don’t think anybody could look at his record and say that it’s a positive. (U.S.) Unemployment is way up. He has a record of absolute failure.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee lists the race as one of about 20 key contests nationally. Rep. Steve Israel, the DCCC’s chairman, has spoken optimistically recently of regaining control of the House.
“A year ago we had a gale-force wind blowing against us. Now we have a nice wind behind our backs. And if we sustain that, we’ll have the majority back nine months from now,” Israel told reporters last month.
Israel, whose district borders Bishop’s, suggested voters may have soured on Republicans. He argues that efforts to end Medicare, the party’s resistance to extend a payroll tax cut to middle class workers and gridlock in Washington have changed the electoral climate.
“If Randy Altschuler couldn’t beat him in 2010 before Republicans tried to end Medicare, I don’t know how he expects to beat him in 2012,” Israel said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Suffolk County GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle said Altschuler, who had never run for office before 2010, has worked to become better known in the congressional district, which will help in a rematch.
“We need a congressman who understands business, promotes business and creates jobs; that’s what Randy Altschuler has done as a businessman,” LaValle said.
Altschuler has the support of the county organization but still faces a primary challenge from former SEC enforcement lawyer George Demos, who lost to Altschuler in a three-way 2010 primary. Demos argued his opponent took his best shot at Bishop two years ago, when Republican upsets were common around the state and nation, and failed.
“Randy Altschuler could not win in a year in which Republicans couldn’t lose,” Demos said. “He has already shown he couldn’t win; it defies common sense to give the nomination to a candidate who made his fortune outsourcing good American jobs to India.”
Demos and Bishop both intend to focus on Altschuler’s tenure as founder and CEO of Office Tiger, an India-based company that provided office services for U.S. financial giants, accusing him of outsourcing American jobs. Altschuler and a business partner received raves in a 2005 BusinessWeek story: “Since they blazed a passage to India, hundreds of outsourcing firms have set up shop in Bangalore, Bombay, and elsewhere. But few have been as successful as New York-based Office Tiger.”
Altschuler notes that he sold Office Tiger in 2006, and argues the company “created jobs in America and overseas. In large measure, those jobs helped to support American businesses and jobs here in the United States.” A spokesman for the campaign declined to say what Altschuler made from the sale of the company.
He is currently cofounder and chairman of CloudBlue, an electronics recycling company headquartered in Norcross, Ga. The company claims it has created more than 250 green jobs in America in the last two years.
“I am a job creator,” said Altschuler. “I consider George to be an extension of Tim Bishop’s campaign. He’s another attack dog. The leadership of the party is united behind me; they know I have the best chance.”
Altschuler and Bishop both agree the congressional contest is likely to be costly. Their campaigns spent nearly $9 million on the 2010 race, according to Federal Elections Commission records.
Bishop, who has been vigorously raising funds since 2010, said he has $1.125 million on hand. Altschuler, who loaned or donated about $3 million to his 2010 campaign, has raised more than $700,000 but has donated only $8,500 thus far for the 2012 campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records. Altschuler isn’t saying how much he may dig into his own wallet for this year’s race.
Demos raised $89,590 for the 2012 campaign, according to FEC records.
Bishop, who had President Clinton stumping for him in the closing days of the last campaign, argues that because 2012 is a presidential election year, more Democrats will likely turn out to vote in his district, giving him an easier ride this time around.
A longtime observer of Long Island politics tends to agree.
“Although Tim Bishop can’t take anything for granted in that district, which is famous for its volatility, his prospects for November seem a lot better than they did two years ago,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.