An­other photo fin­ish in the mak­ing in Long Is­land race

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SEAN LENGELL

Randy Altschuler al­ready had com­pleted ori­en­ta­tion for new mem­bers of Congress two years ago when his ra­zor-thin lead over Demo­crat Ti­mothy H. Bishop flipped into a 600-vote loss af­ter a count of all ab­sen­tee and af­fi­davit bal­lots. So in this year’s re­match to rep­re­sent eastern Long Is­land, nei­ther is tak­ing any­thing for granted.

Repub­li­can chal­lenger and in­cum­bent have flooded the air­waves with at­tack ads. Out­side groups also have poured more than $4.3 mil­lion in the race — a hefty sum for a House race.

And while most in­de­pen­dent po­lit­i­cal ex­perts give Mr. Bishop a slight edge, the race — like the con­test two years ago that wasn’t de­cided un­til a month af­ter the elec­tion — is shap­ing up for an­other pos­si­ble photo fin­ish.

“At a glance it looks like it should be tied, should be a tossup,” said Don­ald P. Levy, di­rec­tor of the Siena (Col­lege) Re­search In­sti­tute. “It doesn’t sur­prise me that it’s go­ing to be very, very close.”

Eastern Long Is­land’s slug­gish econ­omy, pro­por­tion­ally high taxes and stag­nant prop­erty val­ues are is­sues driv­ing the cam­paign, much like two years ago. And with the dis­trict’s bound­aries chang­ing lit­tle due to re­dis­trict­ing this year, the cam­paign in many ways is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the 2010 ver­sion.

Mr. Altschuler has por­trayed the in­cum­bent, a five-term House mem­ber, as a lock-step lib­eral Obama Demo­crat. Mr. Bishop, rather, has pegged his chal­lenger — a busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive and for­mer in­vest­ment banker — as be­ing out of touch with the dis­trict’s work­ing class elec­torate.

Yet par­ti­san hy­per­bole doesn’t al­ways res­onate in the po­lit­i­cally mixed and mod­er­ate dis­trict, where vot­ers rou­tinely swivel be­tween elect­ing Republicans and Democrats to Congress and the White House. And ticket split­ting — vot­ers who sup­port both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can can­di­dates in the same elec­tion — isn’t the anom­aly it is else­where.

“They’re re­ally com­pet­ing again for the same peo­ple,” Mr. Levy said. “And Long Is­land is a place where you ask peo­ple how things are go­ing and they tell you the econ­omy has been dif­fi­cult.”

GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney likely will carry the dis­trict, which in­cludes the swanky Hamp­tons but is dom­i­nated by mid­dle-class com­mu­ni­ties like Brookhaven. Pres­i­dent Obama’s lack­lus­ter im­age here hasn’t doomed Mr. Bishop’s cam­paign, as many vot­ers haven’t linked him with the pres­i­dent.

Democrats, mean­while, ar­gue that if the 41-year-old Mr. Altschuler couldn’t win dur­ing a tea party-fu­eled GOP wave elec­tion two years ago then he cer­tainly won’t come close now. But tea party Repub­li­can­ism largely never took root on Long Is­land, mean­ing that while Mr. Altschuler didn’t ben­e­fit greatly from its boom in 2010, he’s also not suf­fer­ing much from its wane in 2012.

“Both can­di­dates I think are rep­re­sent­ing very well the po­si­tions of their na­tional party,” said Hof­s­tra Univer­sity eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor Marty Melko­nian, who has closely fol­lowed the race.

Mr. Bishop, 62, has ham­mered his op­po­nent, as he did two years ago, over his for­mer in­volve­ment in a com­pany that con­sulted Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions in out­sourc­ing jobs — a charge that has res­onated with many vot­ers.

Many who have closely fol­lowed the race say Mr. Alschuler has learned from his 2010 run, and is oper­at­ing a smarter and more ag­gres­sive cam­paign this time.

Mr. Altschuler and his al­lies, in­clud­ing the Karl Rove-af­fil­i­ated Cross­roads GPS, have at­tacked Mr. Bishop for his role in help­ing se­cure a per­mit for a cam­paign donor for a large fire­works dis­play at his son’s bar mitz­vah.

And Republicans in­sist the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate has changed since 2010 in his fa­vor. Mr. Rom­ney’s expected vic­tory in the dis­trict will pro­vide Mr. Altschuler with some coat­tails. The New Yorker, they say, also has done much bet­ter woo­ing in­de­pen­dent vot­ers who largely sided with Mr. Bishop in 2010.

The Repub­li­can also has se­cured a cov­eted en­dorse­ment from News­day, Long Is­land’s big­gest news­pa­per.

“Randy’s in a bet­ter po­si­tion than cer­tainly two years ago, and we just missed two years ago,” said John McLaugh­lin of McLaugh­lin & As­so­ci­ates, which con­ducted a mid-Oc­to­ber poll for the Altschuler cam­paign that showed him with a slight led.

Out­side groups have spent about $2.2 mil­lion on be­half of Mr. Altschuler, in­clud­ing more than $700,000 in the last week.

But Demo­cratic friendly groups haven’t ig­nored Mr. Bishop, as they’ve poured more than $2 mil­lion of their own money into race.

“I would give a slight edge to Bishop at this point un­less some­thing comes up be­tween now and Elec­tion Day. . . . but it will be a very small mar­gin,” Mr. Melko­nian said. “And I wouldn’t be sur­prised if some­thing would come up that would push Altschuler over the top.”

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