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Zeldin to challenge Bishop for House seat

Republican state Sen. Lee Zeldin will challenge Democratic

Republican state Sen. Lee Zeldin will challenge Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop next year. Credit: Karen Wiles Stabile / AP

Republican state Sen. Lee Zeldin will formally announce Monday that he will challenge Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop next year, saying, "The best way to end the dysfunction is to change the people we send there."

Zeldin, 33, a two-term state lawmaker from Shirley, is to show a 21/2-minute online video at 10 Monday morning to officially declare his candidacy, a rematch of his first race for elected office in 2008, which he lost to Bishop. Zeldin said he also will announce the creation of a Zeldin for Congress campaign fund and website.

"Aren't you tired of the way Washington is failing to represent us?" Zeldin asks in the video. "I'm running for Congress because it's time for new leadership, a louder voice and a fresh perspective."

Zeldin's announcement comes amid political crosscurrents in which House members and President Barack Obama are battling over the government shutdown and Bishop, in his 11th year in office, faces an ethics probe.

"He's been rumored to run and I didn't expect to run unopposed," Bishop, of Southampton, said of Zeldin. "Right now, I'm focused on doing my job for as long as I can."

Another GOP hopeful, George Demos, who ran a losing primary three years ago, has announced his candidacy, formed a fundraising committee and loaned his campaign $1 million.

While losing his first bid for Congress as a political neophyte at 26, Zeldin, a lawyer who served in the Army in the Mideast, won a major upset in 2010 by unseating Democratic state Sen. Brian Foley (D-Blue Point), attacking Foley's vote on the controversial MTA tax. About half of his State Senate district is in the congressional district.

John Jay LaValle, Suffolk Republican chairman, called Zeldin an "ideal candidate" and said Bishop for the first time will face an elected official and not someone unknown to the public. "This is going to shape up to be the most closely watched race in the country," he said.

Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, called Zeldin's candidacy "a foolish idea," adding, "The last thing we need is another tea party Republican to join Speaker Boehner's crew, who have ground our government to a halt with their extreme ideas."

Zeldin describes himself as a "conservative Republican," and said he would represent the district, which he sees as "right of center." But he shied away from using the term tea party to describe himself. "I don't want to get into labels," he said.

Bishop is already battle tested, surviving a 500-plus vote squeaker against multimillionaire Randy Altschuler, one-time owner of OfficeTigers, in 2010 and a wider 10,000-vote victory in a rematch last year, when Obama carried Suffolk County.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said Zeldin is "the right age to make the move" and wished him the "best of luck" in the race. He said the party had not yet looked at potential successors but said the GOP has a "lot of potential candidates" in the district and thinks "we'll keep the seat."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the boundaries of Republican Lee Zeldin's State Senate district.

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