Randy Altschuler, Tim Bishop campaign at fall fest

Randy Altschuler, shakes hands with Rep. Tim Bishop Randy Altschuler, shakes hands with Rep. Tim Bishop during a street fair in Center Moriches. (Oct. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Rep. Tim Bishop stood next to the "Great Hair Stuff" booth, offering passersby a quick handshake, or if they happened to be wearing a T-shirt from a recent college commencement, hearty congratulations.

Randy Altschuler was just across the street, under the sign for the Sea Cove Italian-American Bar & Grill, offering details of his jobs plan, along with small paper shopping bags emblazoned with his name.

Main Street in Center Moriches on Oct. 20 offered all the attractions of a fall festival -- from fried dough and fine crafts to valuable face time opportunities for the 1st Congressional District candidates.

Bishop, a five-term Southampton Democrat and former provost of Southampton College, and Altschuler, a Republican businessman from St. James, are still lobbing personal attacks on television and online, and debating policy at frequent weeknight forums.

But it's at events such as the Center Moriches Fall Festival where the candidates get their best shot at interacting with potential voters. Their heated rematch follows Altschuler's loss to Bishop by 593 votes in 2010.

Booths for Bishop and Altschuler, where each candidate spent part of the day, were similarly close -- only a few feet from each other at an event spanning much of the bayside hamlet's downtown.

When Bishop was out in the street, he walked briskly, offering frequent handshakes but leaving the distribution of party literature to volunteers.

His longest stop was to buy his wife a $2.50 homemade pin with the peace sign and the John Lennon lyric "All we are saying/is give peace a chance."

The vendor, Eastport resident Carol Pitney, told Bishop, "You have my vote," though she said it had nothing to do with the purchase. "I trust him," said Pitney, 57, a registered Democrat, adding she doesn't always vote Democratic. "I'm a people voter, not a party voter."

Altschuler made his rounds while carrying a stack of the gift-sized shopping bags stuffed with fliers about him and other GOP candidates.

Like Bishop, Altschuler was recognized frequently, in a race where millions of dollars have been spent on advertising.

Alvin Nowicki, of Manorville, stopped Altschuler on the street to let him know he'd have his vote. The retired court clerk, wearing a NASCAR baseball cap and smoking a pipe, said he liked the candidate's pro-business platform.

"We need guys like you running our country," said Nowicki, 62, a registered Republican.

The fleeting nature of the interactions meant that neither candidate spent much time detailing platforms. Both, however, knew an easy opportunity to tip the favorability scale when they saw one.

Bishop, at one point, stopped to compliment a man on his New York Giants sweatshirt, saying he was also a fan. Minutes later, Altschuler did the same thing with a man wearing a Jets T-shirt.

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