Republicans across the country have placed a giant target on the back of East End Congressman Tim Bishop this election season, and just last week GOP brass at the state and county levels came to Riverhead to spread their message.
State GOP Chairman Edward Cox and County leader John Jay LaValle joined Mr. Bishop’s opponent Randy Altschuler at a meeting with members of the Suffolk 9-12 Project at Polish Hall Feb. 15.
Mr. Altschuler, a businessman from St. James, was forced to run a primary to get the Republican nod before losing to Mr. Bishop (D-Southampton) by just 593 votes in 2010. This year he is the nominee of both the state and county Republican committees, although he may face a primary challenge from George Demos, who also ran a primary two years ago, when Christopher Cox was the party designee.
“The First Congressional District is a very important area and this is one I think we’re going to win this time,” said Edward Cox, the father of Chris Cox and the son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon. Two years ago, Republicans gained six Congressional seats in New York state, he said.
Unlike two years ago, when the Suffolk 9-12, which is affiliated with the Tea Party movement, backed Christopher Cox instead of Mr. Altschuler in the primary, Edward Cox said the Republicans and Conservatives are united going into this election, and he feels Mr. Bishop is vulnerable.
“This is a Conservative district,” he said. Mr. Bishop’s victory two years ago was the closest contest in the country, and it required a lengthy recount to determine the winner, Mr. Cox said.
“I have the united support of the Republicans, Conservatives, and the Tea Party groups this year, so I think having that united front will be extremely helpful going into this election season,” Mr. Altschuler said.
Mr. Bishop, who has held the First Congressional seat on the East End since 2002, says he’s used to being one of the top GOP targets.
“That has always been the case,” he said in an interview this week. “This is a district that, by the numbers, would suggest that a Republican candidate would have the advantage, but they’ve targeted me in every race I’ve been in and I’ve been successful in every race I’ve been in.”
Democrats have criticized Mr. Altschuler for outsourcing jobs overseas at a company he created called Office Tiger and paying the employees far less than they would make in America.
Mr. Altschuler says Mr. Bishop “is not focused on creating an environment that helps small businesses. That means lowering taxes and getting rid of a lot of the government regulation that is so burdensome that businesses can’t operate and focus their attention on important things like growing and creating jobs and servicing customers.”
He said a bill Mr. Bishop proposed would require companies to say where their employees are located.
“How about trying to figure out why jobs have left the country?” Mr. Altschuler asked. “Taxes are too high and there is too much red tape and mandates. The government is driving companies out and Tim Bishop is letting that happen.”
Mr. Bishop, who said the bill would prohibit companies that outsourced call center jobs overseas from getting federal grants or loans for five years, disputes Mr. Altschuler’s claims that government is driving business out of the country.
“The only reason a call center would be outsourced is so a corporation could add to their bottom line,” he said. “There is no regulation that is driving call center jobs off shore. What is driving call center jobs off shore is corporate greed.”
Mr. Altschuler says he’s a “self-made man,” who understands how businesses run.
“I’ve lived that American dream which I think is so important that we preserve,” he said. “I came from nothing, I was brought up by a single mom, my father left when I was young. We didn’t have any money, so I worked my way through college, I started two companies from scratch, I created thousands of jobs. I know what it’s like to start a business, I know the hoops that you have to jump through and the challenges and I can use that small business experience and help get the government out of the way and aid small businesses here in the district.”
He accuses Mr. Bishop of voting with his party 95 percent of the time and supporting the “failed policies” of President Barack Obama.
“When you go to vote in Congress, you’ve only got two choices,” Mr. Bishop said. “You either vote for the really noxious pieces of legislation that the Republicans are bringing to the floor, or you vote against it. If the Republicans were able to bring better, more balanced, less partisan pieces of legislation to the floor, I’d be happy to look at it. But when they’re bringing legislation to the floor that would, for example, lay off 1,000 scientists at BNL, or make it more difficult for seniors to qualify for medicare or cut the amount of money that seniors get for medicaid, for nursing home care, I’m not going to vote for them.”
Mr. Bishop said the House Majority leader, Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia, has been trying to pursue a Tea Party agenda, and that Mr. Altschuler is aligning himself with Mr. Cantor.
Mr. Bishop said he feels the Tea Party agenda is not beneficial for New York and that elected officials should look to support a more bipartisan agenda.
Mr. Altschuler said that since Mr. Bishop was first elected 10 years ago, the national debt has doubled and unemployment has risen by 50 percent.
He said that in the last election, “I lost because I let Tim Bishop run all over me. I will not make that mistake again.”
He said he will be more aggressive in responding to criticism this time.