Tim Bishop-Randy Altschuler money race tight

Congressman Tim Bishop speaks during a debate with

Congressman Tim Bishop speaks during a debate with his opponent, congressional candidate Randy Altschuler, at the Riverhead Baptist Church. (Sept. 23, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara)

Mirroring most aspects of their hard-fought race, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican challenger, Randy Altschuler, remain extremely close in the money they've directly raised and spent, according to financial filings to be released Monday.

From July 1 to Sept. 30, each candidate for the 1st Congressional District raised just less than $500,000: $487,489 for Bishop and $464,512 for Altschuler. Each spent just more than $1 million, as expensive television ads began to appear with greater frequency: $1.12 million for Bishop and $1.03 million for Altschuler.

With three weeks until Election Day, that means Bishop, a five-term incumbent, and Altschuler, a St. James businessman, have taken in -- and paid out -- campaign cash at a near-identical pace. Bishop's net contributions over about two years total $2.34 million; Altschuler's total $2.29 million.

Each has spent $1.7 million over that time, according to quarterly report summaries they provided to Newsday on Sunday and will file with the Federal Election Commission Monday.

Bishop and Altschuler, separated by only 593 votes in 2010, are again locked in a race that most political analysts expect to be close. But this time, the amount spent independent of the candidates' own committees has nearly tripled.

Through Sunday, outside groups had purchased more than $2.5 million in television ads and mailings, with more expected to come. About two-thirds of that spending was to benefit Altschuler.

In 2010, outside spending by super PACs and other special interests totaled $1.08 million.

The one clear advantage Bishop still has is cash on hand. It was $909,003 at the end of last month, compared with Altschuler's $229,388.

But Altschuler spokesman Chris Russell said Sunday that "Randy is willing to contribute his own money, if need be, to make sure we can execute our whole plan through Election Day." Altschuler, who with a partner sold his first business, OfficeTiger, for $250 million in 2006, spent nearly $3 million of his own money in 2010.

"In short, I have absolutely no concerns about our ability to compete financially in the home stretch," Russell said.

From January through May, Altschuler raised more money than Bishop, prompting his campaign to claim momentum. That changed with the filings covering June, and now, July through September. Bishop campaign manager Lisa Wieber-Santeramo said, "By the Altschuler campaign's definition, the momentum in this race is with Congressman Bishop."

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