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Long Islander George Tsunis' bid to become U.S. ambassador to Norway 'is over'

George James Tsunis during his Senate confirmation hearing

George James Tsunis during his Senate confirmation hearing to be the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway in Washington, D.C. on Jan 16, 2014. Credit: US Senate

WASHINGTON -- Long Island businessman and political fundraiser George Tsunis said Friday that his troubled nomination to be U.S. ambassador to Norway won't get a vote in the Senate, ending his bid for a diplomatic post.

Tsunis' poor performance in his February confirmation hearing sparked criticism from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and made Tsunis a symbol of campaign fundraisers who get nominated to be ambassador while appearing to be ill-prepared for the job.

"It is over," Tsunis said in a telephone interview.

A Senate aide confirmed Tsunis was out. Senate Democrats had attempted to wrap many unconfirmed nominees into a package for approval, Tsunis said, but the final measure left out his nomination.

Tsunis faced a close vote. At the urging of Norwegian-American activists, Minnesota's Democratic senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said they would vote against him.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who supported the nomination, said, "George Tsunis would have been a hardworking, conscientious ambassador, and it's unfortunate he won't get a chance to demonstrate that."

Tsunis said he was grateful to be considered and went through a "tremendous life-learning experience."

He said, "Things don't always work out as we plan, but [I'm] very much looking forward to focusing full time on my wife, my children, my business and my community."

Tsunis said he bought a new home nearer his children's school on Wednesday.

Tsunis said he would decline to be nominated again in the next Congress.

"I don't think anybody would think it's a good idea," he said. "Norway has been without an ambassador for two years and the overarching thing should be: Let's get them a first-rate ambassador."

At his confirmation hearing, Tsunis stumbled, calling Norway's prime minister a "president" and describing the Progress Party as "fringe elements" that "spew their hatred," though it is in Norway's coalition government.

President Barack Obama announced in December 2013 he would nominate Tsunis, managing director of Chartwell Hotels, for the post.

Tsunis, member of a family of active Republicans, donated $50,000 to McCain's presidential bid in 2008.

But after Obama won, Tsunis switched parties and in the 2012 presidential campaign raised $988,550 for Obama, gave $300,000 to Democratic super PACs and $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign funds.

In New York, Tsunis and his wife, Olga, gave $115,000 to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's 2014 re-election campaign, state records show.

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