Update: Final vote count shows Bishop won by 592 votes

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | The final vote count in the 1st District race for Congress shows incumbent Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) defeated Republican challenger Randy Altschuler by 588 votes, according to the Bishop campaign.

The final vote count in the 1st District race for Congress shows incumbent Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) defeated Republican challenger Randy Altschuler by 592 votes, according to the Bishop campaign.

The final tally saw Mr. Bishop receive 98,316 votes to 97,723 counted for the St. James businessman.

Mr. Bishop won by just .3 percent of the total vote.

Editor’s note: Below is Wednesday’s coverage of Mr. Altschuler’s concession:

Republican challenger Randy Altschuler conceded Wednesday morning that he had lost his bid to unseat Congressman Tim Bishop, who will go on to a fifth two-year term in Washington ­— the first time in more than 30 years that an East End congressman will have served more than four terms.

The announcement came with Mr. Bishop (D-Southampton) ahead of the St. James businessman by 263 votes after both campaigns battled it out in the courts for more than a month after Election Day.

“After consulting with my family and campaign staff, I am ending my campaign and offering congratulations to Congressman Tim Bishop on his victory,” Mr. Altschuler said in a statement.

He continued: “Although Newsday, The New York Times and the Bishop campaign have all called for a hand recount of all the ballots cast on Election Day, I will not support such an action as I feel its cost will place an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers of Suffolk County.

Mr. Altschuler called Congressman Bishop Wednesday morning to concede and has formally withdrawn his remaining ballot challenges. Within the hour, Suffolk County Board of Elections officials were to begin counting all the remaining ballots so that Mr. Bishop’s win could be certified.

In his statement, Mr. Altschulter said he had entered the race “because I was worried about the future of our nation. The problems America faces are many and will not be easily solved. I plan to stay active in politics and continue to speak out on the issues that affect the residents of Suffolk County, our state and our nation. Those issues include high taxes, runaway spending and an ever-growing deficit. I intend to play an active role in building the Republican and Conservative Party voices in both Suffolk County and New York State.”

Despite charges of voter fraud, which included reports from the Altschuler camp and on FoxNews that registered voters in New York City with vacation homes on the East End had cast absentee ballots in the race here, the numbers weren’t adding up for Mr. Altschuler.

With Mr. Bishop up consistently by about 250 votes during the count of 11,500 absentee ballots, and the number of contested ballots being whittled down by the day — through either concessions or a judge’s orders — it became clear that Mr. Altschuler’s chances for a turnaround were fading.

Mr. Bishop’s top aide, Jon Schneider, said on Tuesday, “If our lead is larger than the number of challenges we’re holding, the only way Altschuler can come back is to open up challenges he’s holding. But the more we open, the more Bishop goes up. I think that we feel pretty confident of where we’re at at this point. Obviously, I like the trend lines.”

Both sides had been riding a roller coaster ever since election night, when preliminary tallies had Mr. Bishop up by about 3,500 votes. But a re-canvassing of the optical voting machines, used for the first time in a Suffolk County general election, put him behind his challenger by 383 votes.

Mr. Altschuler watched that lead vanish once the week-long process of counting 11,500 absentee and affidavit ballots ended after the Thanksgiving break, leaving Mr. Bishop up by 235. Ever since, the congressman’s lead has grown.

Mr. Schneider said Mr. Bishop’s reelection during a tough time for Democrats was a testament to his hard work on behalf of the 1st Congressional District, which stretches from Smithtown to Orient and Montauk.

Mr. Schneider, noting that although Republicans outnumber Democrats “in the absentee universe” Mr. Bishop had picked up 650 votes in the absentee count, said the facts showed “that the congressman has strong bipartisan support throughout this district.”

“The fact that Tim Bishop was able to hold on against a guy who spent $4 million in a heavily Republican district is a testament that he works very hard and delivers to eastern Long Island,” Mr. Schneider said, “and it appears he’ll have the opportunity to do that for another two years.”

No 1st District congressman since Otis Pike of Riverhead, a Democrat, has served more than four terms, all but one, who retired, knocked from office by challengers. Mr. Pike served nine terms before retiring in 1978. Mr. Bishop was first elected in 2002. His new fifth term will expire at the end of 2012, so if he were to seek a sixth term, he would run again in a presidential election year.

Asked how GOP fever that swept the nation on Election Day failed to tip a traditional Republican district back into the GOP’s hands, Desmond Ryan, a longtime political lobbyist and expert on Long Island politics, echoed some of Mr. Schneider’s statements.

“The difficulty [for the Republicans] here was, if I have to pick a product by the community, of the community and for the community, Tim Bishop is it,” he said.

As for Mr. Altschuler, a newcomer to Suffolk County who took something of a beating during the GOP primary campaign, Mr. Ryan said his loss follows a political trend in itself.

“It’s been a situation from the get-go with Altschuler pouring enough of his personal fortune into the race, and Bishop using his power of the incumbency very effectively,” Mr. Ryan said. “But nine times out of 10, people who try to buy the election fail … Why? Because nobody else has any skin in the game. If I write you a check, I’m vested in you; I care. But if it’s all your own money, what’s in it for me if you win?”

[email protected]