As the final stretch of the race for a seat in the House of Representatives approached this week, more money had been spent in the First Congressional District than ever before and the candidates had participated in more debates. Money and rhetoric notwithstanding, campaign leaders for the candidates, Tim Bishop, the Democratic five-term incumbent, and, Randy Altschuler, a Republican who is challenging him for the second time, expressed optimism.
As of last Thursday, more than $4.2 million has been poured into the race by outside groups — $2.9 million to benefit Mr. Altschuler; $1.3 for Representative Bishop, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The same F.E.C. data shows Mr. Bishop campaign had raised $2.5 million directly, while Mr. Altschuler raised just over $2 million. Mr. Bishop’s campaign had more cash on hand, $544,355, to Mr. Altschuler’s $204,137.
Robert Pierce, a spokesman for the Bishop campaign, noted Mr. Bishop’s slim win in 2010 over Mr. Altschuler. “Eighty-five percent of House elections that year were determined by who had deeper pockets,” Mr. Pierce said. “We didn’t lose then, and I feel pretty confident that there will be a similar result this year.”
Mr. Pierce, who was working at a hotel off the Long Island Expressway on Tuesday because Hurricane Sandy had caused a loss of electricity at the campaign’s headquarters, said more Democrats would turn out during this “big-ticket” election than in the midterm election two years ago.
Diana Weir, a campaign leader for Mr. Altschuler, said yesterday from headquarters in Middle Island that a win for the businessman from St. James is “a sure bet.” “We have the momentum. We feel so much positive energy from our supporters.” Ms. Weir pointed to a lead in two recent Republican-funded polls, and said “Mitt Romney is gaining support in this district.”
Mr. Pierce disagreed, saying, “People don’t really know who Randy Altschuler is.”
Mr. Pierce has called Mr. Altschuler a “flawed candidate,” who wouldn’t be viable had he not poured over $1.8 million of his own money into the 2010 campaign. “This is a guy who flies a Tea Party flag in his office and takes extreme positions on several issues, but backs off when asked about them,” Mr. Pierce said.
Mr. Pierce said people may not always agree with the congressman, who, he said, was up by 13 points in a Sienna poll in September, but “they can always trust him to do the right thing.”
Ms. Weir, saying that Mr. Altschuler is “a family man with two kids,” noted that voters had “constantly heard about his first business. Why are people punishing successful businessmen?” She called Mr. Altschuler a job creator. “Jobs and the economy are what people on Long Island care about‚” she said.
Mr. Altschuler, who has been endorsed by the Conservative and Independence Parties, has also been endorsed by Newsday and several Suffolk County organizations. John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House, showed support for Mr. Altschuler at a private event in St. James on Oct. 10.
The Altschuler campaign has hundreds of volunteers, who range from high school and Stony Brook University students to community leaders, Ms. Weir said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared with Mr. Bishop at a rally in Hauppauge on Oct. 26. “We are thankful for all of our supporters,” Mr. Pierce said,”but especially to all of the labor groups who endorsed Tim and knocked on doors and made phone calls for him.” He said the campaign had 500 volunteers.
The campaign leaders agreed that the candidates had participated in an extraordinary number of debates, so much so that neither could say exactly how many. “It was around 30,” Mr. Pierce said, adding that House candidates usually debate five times at most. “It was an unheard of amount, but people found them informative and helpful.”
“After the first couple of debates, they knew each other’s lines,” Ms. Weir said.
A debate that had been sponsored by the Business Alliances of East Hampton and Southampton on Tuesday night in Bridgehampton, which was expected to draw a big audience, was canceled. The hurricane also caused Mr. Bishop to miss a forum sponsored by the Citizens Concerned of Montauk on Sunday, although he sent a representative.
On Tuesday Mr. Bishop will watch the election results at the Marriott Islandia, while Mr. Altschuler will set up at the Emporium in Patchogue, which is described as a multi-purpose venue, with a bowling alley, beer garden, and restaurant.