Two years ago, newcomer Randy Altschuler came within 593 votes of unseating incumbent Tim Bishop in a dramatic vote count that lasted for more than a month. Now he's back to try again, in a congressional race that's garnering national attention -- and dollars.
House Speaker John Boehner dropped by Nissequogue recently, to raise money for Republican Altschuler, 41, who co-founded CloudBlue Technologies, an electronics recycling company. Independent spending in the contest has so far exceeded $3 million. On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo held a rally for Bishop in Hauppauge.
Bishop's record is formidable. A former college financial assistance officer who rose to become provost of Southampton College, Bishop has presented a strong, consistent and effective defense of student aid on Capitol Hill.
Bishop has used his membership on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee well, delivering $50 million for roads and bridges on Long Island. He has sought to be an environmental steward, backing legislation to promote clean estuaries and protect the Long Island Sound. He's also brought in $35 million to clean up beaches.
But Altschuler, who holds an MBA and lives in St. James, makes a compelling case for his candidacy this time out. As co-founder of OfficeTiger, a Manhattan-based business support company, in addition to his founding role at CloudBlue, he's proven himself as an entrepreneur with extraordinary business acumen, someone who could help Long Island's private sector create jobs.
If elected, Altschuler would likely be a member of the majority in the House of Representatives, which would give him a substantial advantage as he works to carry out his agenda. Meanwhile, he has carefully played down any tea party ties in this year's campaign, a move that instantly nudges him closer to the district mainstream and one we hope is genuine.
Another promising sign: Although Altschuler signed Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge two years ago, basically opposing any and all tax increases, this year he did not -- a welcome indication that he understands a legislator must compromise. And Altschuler says he will start a new GOP caucus to end the bitter partisanship that has paralyzed the House. He will be held to that promise.
The political and philosophical gulf between Altschuler and Bishop remains profound. While Bishop insists that government can be a force for good, his challenger says government too often overreaches. The country is living beyond its means now, Altschuler says, and if you give the government more money, its expenses will just mushroom accordingly.
These are ancient arguments, of course, played out during this election cycle in district after district from northern Maine to Southern California. By now even Bishop and Altschuler are smoothly exchanging their best lines.
Bishop remains a man of admirable principles and service. But Altschuler has emerged as a business leader with the skills to guide eastern Long Island toward a brighter future.
Newsday endorses Altschuler.