Randy Altschuler, a St. James businessman who rode a wave of anger at President Obama to come within inches of unseating Democratic Representative Tim Bishop last fall, has announced that he will run again for New York’s 1st Congressional seat next year rather than pursue the Suffolk County executive position as had been speculated.
In a statement released to the press on May 25, Mr. Altschuler said, “The truth is that after falling just short last year, my intent had always been to seek a rematch with Congressman Bishop in 2012 and in the coming days I will file papers making that run official. I am eager to contrast my record as a successful entrepreneur and small businessman who knows how to create jobs versus Congressman Bishop’s record as a tax, spend, and borrow politician who has run our economy into the ground.”
Mr. Altschuler led briefly in the 2010 contest after all the voting machines in the district were recanvassed, but upon the conclusion of a 36-day absentee ballot count, he conceded to the incumbent. The final margin was fewer than 600 votes out of around 200,000 cast. He is not a shoo-in, per se, for the Republican nomination for another go next fall, but as he continues to enjoy wide backing in the Suffolk County G.O.P., he can be safely regarded as the front-runner.
Mr. Bishop declined to comment directly, but his campaign spokesman, Jon Schneider, said Friday that if Mr. Altschuler came up short in 2010, the political environment in 2012 with President Barack Obama on the ballot will prove less hospitable to his candidacy.
“No doubt, Randy came close last time. That said, 2010 was the best year for the Republicans in several generations. A presidential year is a vastly different election; in Suffolk County, it’s a better electorate for a Democrat.” Nationwide, Republicans picked up 63 seats last fall in their midterm sweep, riding Tea Party support to their biggest congressional gains in decades. In 2008, President Obama carried Suffolk County with 53 percent of the vote over John McCain, a much narrower margin than the 63 percent he earned statewide.
Mr. Schneider pointed out Friday that Mr. Bishop has never run unopposed and did not expect to cruise to reelection this time around, either. He said his candidate’s support of dredging Montauk Harbor and the preservation of jobs at Brookhaven National Lab that were threatened during the budget negotiations on Capitol Hill this spring would bolster his support.
The congressman’s spokesman also went after Mr. Altschuler for allegedly refusing to take a position on Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which would change Medicare for those currently under 55 to a voucher system, with individuals receiving government subsidies to purchase private health plans. Mr. Bishop voted against the budget proposal when it passed the House in mid-April; it failed to pass the Senate.
Mr. Altschuler’s spokesman, Chris Russell, responded Tuesday, “Randy is just getting his campaign under way and will have plenty to say about all the important issues facing the country in coming days, weeks, and months ahead. While Mr. Bishop likes to ask questions, how about he takes the time to answer some, like where are all the jobs that were supposed to be created with his big-government stimulus bill and what’s his plan to cut spending and dig us out of trillions upon trillions in debt that he helped to create during his years in Washington?”
In addition to the Medicare question, which would seem to have played an outsized role -- as members of both parties in Washington have conceded -- in handing New York’s 26th Congressional District seat to a Democrat during a special election there last week, voters are sure to hear about taxes and debt, issues Mr. Altschuler raised repeatedly during the last campaign, as well as the health care law passed last year that Mr. Bishop supported and continues to trumpet as a flawed but vital measure.