It is a national and state election year and more people than just the candidates are throwing their hats into the ring. Diana Weir, who only last week retired from her job as executive vice president of the Long Island Housing Partnership, will take the reins as manager for the congressional campaign of Randy Altschuler, the likely nominee of the Republicans to challenge Representative Tim Bishop’s re-election campaign.
Mr. Bishop, a Democrat, and Mr. Altschuler faced off in 2010 in a hard-fought, sometimes bitterly negative, and very close race that was not officially decided until weeks after the election and then by only 593 votes.
While Mr. Altschuler was targeted as a carpetbagger in the last election, adding Ms. Weir to his team should help allay that characterization. “I know so many people, living here for so long. I hear concerns and will do outreach to all: the community leaders and the different groups I’ve been working with all of my life. I will provide a very local face to show how Randy really cares about the community,” she said.
On Tuesday, Chris Russell, a spokesman for the Altschuler campaign, agreed that choosing Ms. Weir to run the campaign would put a local face on the election effort. He dismissed the previous portrayal of Mr. Altschuler as an outsider, noting that “Randy has been a member of the community for several years along with his wife and is raising his kids here.” Still, “Diana is a prominent figure locally and that’s a plus for us. She will be able to use those connections across the wide range of public and private entities in Suffolk County,” which, he added, is struggling economically in comparison to the rest of New York.
Mr. Altschuler went into the last race battle weary from a late primary battle with two other challengers. This time, he has the endorsement of both state and county Republican leaders, including Edward Cox, the state party chairman and father of Mr. Altschuler’s previous primary opponent Chris Cox, and John Jay LaValle, the county party chairman. Other officials who have endorsed him include former Governor George Pataki and the Conservative Party’s state chairman, Mike Long.
George Demos, who was the other primary opponent in 2010, is expected to mount another challenge this year should the Republican and Conservative parties endorse Mr. Altschuler. Even so, the primary is now scheduled for June, well ahead of the November election.
Ms. Weir, who was former Representative Michael Forbes’s chief of staff before he became a Democrat, played key roles in his campaigns. She is a former East Hampton Town Board member and was the first Hispanic councilwoman to serve the town. Her résumé includes other public sector roles, including serving on the board of Long Island Power Authority, the Stony Brook University Council, and as a county human rights commissioner. She holds various honors from El Diario/La Prensa, the Suffolk County Hispanic Heritage Month, and the United States Small Business Administration. She was also recently appointed to the East Hampton Town Planning Board.
Ms. Weir said that Mr. Altschuler’s “pulled-up-by-his-bootstraps” background inspired her and she felt she was needed by the campaign. “He understands what it is to survive tough times. Raised by a single mother, he and his brother had to struggle to get where they are and he is very proud of that.”
She said this year’s election will be about jobs. In a new rebuff to assertions that Mr. Altschuler’s first company, Office Tiger, was a job outsourcer, she said the Obama administration “outsourced the space mission to Russia. It’s just the way it is” in the global economy. Still, she said that should not detract from the need for people in government who “have had to make a payroll, make a business happen, make jobs happen.” Mr. Altschuler sold Office Tiger in 2006 and now owns a domestic electronic equipment recycling company called CloudBlue that has created more than 300 American jobs, according to his campaign.
Local issues will count, but it is the state of the national economy trickling down to large job losses on Long Island that will be a centerpiece of the campaign, Ms. Weir said. “At different times, we have different needs. Right now, it’s the economy. You can’t get away from it.” Pressures on small businesses from new health mandates and tight credit and a “housing market in shambles” will also be key issues. “We need a major shake up.”
And, once again, things could get ugly. Asked about the negative and sometimes scurrilous ads put forward by both sides last time, Ms. Weir said it was possible to see more of the same this time. “It’s just the business of things on both sides. We will go on the record with hard facts and build our message.”
Since Mr. Altschuler has not been officially designated as the Republican candidate, Ms. Weir said the campaign will continue to work relatively quietly until then. An announcement is possible in the next week or so, according to Mr. Russell.
Although Mr. Altschuler lost last time, she said it’s a different election this year and this has always been a swing district. “I figure Tim Bishop has been in office a long time, eight years. We have momentum, we will keep it going.”