President Barack Obama will appear for the first time at a fundraiser on Long Island on Oct. 16 to help raise money for the midterm elections, but two top Democrats running for Congress said they won't be able to make the event.
Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, who will host the event at the Garden City Hotel with his wife, Mindy, and the Democratic National Committee, said he expects 400 to 500 donors to attend. They will pay either $1,250 or $5,000 for photos with Obama. "I've been trying to get the president to come here for almost as long as he's been president and he's finally coming," said Jacobs.
The two Democratic congressional candidates facing the most competitive Long Island races in November -- Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is running to succeed retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) -- will not go to the fundraiser, their campaigns said Wednesday. Both said they had no knowledge of the event until it was reported Wednesday on newsday.com.
Bishop, who faces Republican state Sen. Lee Zeldin of Shirley, gave no specific reason. "He is just not going," said campaign spokesman Evan Lukaske. "We weren't invited. That's all I have for you."
Rice, who is running against Republican Bruce Blakeman, will "be busy doing her job as DA, and whatever little free time she has she'll be spending in communities talking with voters," spokesman Eric Phillips said in an email.
In an interview, Phillips noted that, "it'll be two weeks out from Election Day," but declined to answer further questions.
Some Republicans said Obama's sagging popularity will be a drain on Democrats in November. Suffolk County GOP chairman John Jay LaValle said the president's visit will be "a tremendous boost for the Republican Party. It couldn't come at a better time. It's a great reminder, just in case they forgot, about how poorly he's managed the country."
Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said he won't be able to attend because he'll be "busy raising money for the local candidates." Still, he downplayed any negative effect of Obama's visit, saying: "Voters are very smart. They realize the president is the president. And local candidates will be judged on their records."Obama's last appearance on Long Island occurred in the presidential debate at Hofstra University with Mitt Romney in 2012.
Donors can get a family photo for up to five people with Obama for a contribution of $5,000, while groups of four will pay $1,250. The proceeds will go to help the national Democratic Party in the midterm congresional elections in November.
Jacobs said he got approval to send invitations to his mailing list of donors Wednesday, and final details of the event are still being worked out.