Altschuler seeks unity for 1st District

Randy Altschuler, Smithtown Republican candidate for the 1st

Randy Altschuler, Smithtown Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District. (May 24, 2012) (Credit: David Pokress)

Randy Altschuler says he's a pragmatic deal-broker who can unite East End residents as he runs again against Rep. Tim Bishop in the politically split 1st Congressional District.

Altschuler, a Republican, lost to Bishop (D-Southampton) by 593 votes in 2010. He's for across-the-board tax cuts, including for families making more than $250,000, increasing the minimum amount of revenue businesses can earn before they're subject to regulatory laws and repealing President Barack Obama's signature health care overhaul.

Altschuler also ran as a fiscal conservative two years ago, embracing the tea party movement and talking about "taking back this country from Democrats." This year, he's struck a more conciliatory, bipartisan tone, rarely mentioning the tea party groups that support him.

Bishop challenges his rivalBishop said Altschuler can't have it both ways.

"Here's a guy who began the campaign actively, passionately seeking tea party support and is now keeping them at arm's length," Bishop said. "So which is it? Who is he?"

Altschuler, of St. James, says his positions haven't changed, and that he still welcomes tea party support, along with his endorsement by Suffolk's largest municipal union and the state Independence Party.

He says his business background -- he co-founded a company that provided back-office services to professional clients, using foreign and U.S. workers and another that recycles electronics -- makes him the best candidate to help residents of eastern Suffolk County rebuild their economy.

"If we cede this country to people who don't have private-sector experience, we're doing a disservice," said Altschuler. "No progress is not acceptable, and I know you have to work with the other side to get it."

On national radarFollowing Bishop's narrow victory in 2010, the race is on the radar of both national parties and other political advocacy groups that have contributed a total of more than $5 million on Altschuler's and Bishop's behalf. The GOP, which took control of the House in 2011, is looking for a pickup to extend its 50-seat majority, while holding Bishop's seat is crucial to the Democrats' plan to climb back.

The candidates also are campaigning in a district that remains closely split, with 155,713 registered Republicans and 130,411 Democrats.

Altschuler, 41, was raised by a single mother in Manhattan. He attended the public Hunter College High School and then Princeton University, where he met his wife, Cheryl, a former professional ballet dancer who is now a pediatrician. They married in 1998, and have two young children.

After college, Altschuler spent a year in Austria as a Fulbright scholar and held jobs as a banker at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, and as assistant to the chief executive of Deutsche Bank. After receiving his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1998, he worked at the Blackstone Group investment bank.

In 2000, he and a Princeton classmate founded OfficeTiger, a Manhattan-based professional support services firm, with employees worldwide, that aimed to boost companies' profits and productivity by handling back-office functions.

Bishop and Altschuler have shared stages more than 30 times at debates and forums over the past six weeks. While they're cordial in person, each candidate continues to attack the other relentlessly through television ads and mailers.

Bishop said Altschuler showed little bipartisanship back in 2009 when he signed activist Grover Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes.

Altschuler did not sign the pledge this election cycle because he decided to "largely take a pass on all-or-nothing pledges this year, because he believes it's important for candidates to demonstrate a willingness to compromise," said campaign spokesman Chris Russell.

But Bishop said, "I think the same question people are asking about Gov. Romney, which is, 'Who's the real Mitt Romney?' is a reasonable question to ask about Randy."

Altschuler says his bipartisan bent is real. He says he would have opposed GOP cuts to federal highway aid and would have backed increasing the debt ceiling, unlike tea party House members who helped push government to near-default last year.

"One thing I've learned, because I'm a self-made guy, is that a lot of times you just have to go for it," Altschuler said. "Sometimes you fall flat on your face, but sometimes it works and is worth a risk when it's something you believe in."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Follow Newsday on social media

advertisement | advertise on newsday