A jam-packed, widely watched contest for Suffolk's 1st Congressional District seat is about to get more crowded as county Legis. Jay Schneiderman says he will form an exploratory committee for a possible race against Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton).
Schneiderman, 47, becomes the ninth potential challenger, joining eight Republicans who are vying to take on the four-term incumbent.
But this development has a twist. Unlike the others, Schneiderman, 47, a Montauk motel owner and former East Hampton Town 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. "I'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; that would be about 10 times more than he's raised in any previous race.
Bishop had the Independence Party endorsement as an incumbent. But because Schneiderman is a party member, he can seek its nomination, including running in a primary, without anyone's permission. Bishop or any of the potential GOP nominees would need the 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, adding he will give Schneiderman advice through the process. "He has to be taken seriously."
Operatives of both major parties have the 1st Congressional District on their radar screens for what is expected to be a hard-fought midterm election year in House districts across the nation.