The jam-packed, widely-watched contest for Suffolk’s First Congressional District seat is about to get more crowded as Suffolk Legis. Jay Schneiderman says he will form an exploratory committee for a possible race against Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-Southampton).
Schneiderman, 47, becomes the ninth potential challenger, joining eight Republicans who are also vying to take of the four-term incumbent.
But this development has a special twist. Unlike the others, Schneiderman, 47, a Montauk motel owner and former East Hampton supervisor, is a former Republican -- who defected to the Independence Party last year and won re-election unopposed.
"My intention is not to seek a major party backing,” said Schneiderman, claiming the public is fed up with both major parties. "l'm floating the idea to see the kind of response I get from voters. This is a race an Independent can win. You could see the first member of the Independence Party in Congress."
Forming an exploratory committee would allow Schneiderman to begin raising campaign funds. Should he run, Schneiderman estimates he would need about $1 million to get his message out -- about 10 times more than he’s raised in any earlier race.
In the last two elections, Bishop has had the Independence Party's endorsement. But because Schneiderman is a party member he can seek its nomination without anyone's permission to run a primary. Bishop or any potential GOP nominee would need authorization of Suffolk and State Independence Party chairman Frank MacKay to run on the minor party line -- or to compete in a party primary.
"Jay is a viable candidate for any office," said MacKay. "He has to be taken seriously," MacKay said -- adding he will give Schneiderman advice through the process.
Operatives of both major parties have the 1st C.D. on their radar screens for what is expected to be a hard-fought mid-term election year in House seats across the nation.