Suffolk Closeup: Breaking down the 2012 election

JOHN GRIFFIN FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop speaks to reporters on election night.

In analyzing Election 2012 in Suffolk County, the race in the First Congressional District was the nastiest I’ve ever seen in my 50 years observing and writing about contests in this eastern Long Island district.

Whether they involved Otis Pike or George Hochbrueckner, Felix Grucci or Mike Forbes, Gregory Blass or Regina Seltzer, Walter Ormsby or Jack Hart (among others who have run through these five decades), I’ve never seen anything like it.

“Corrupt Career Politician Tim Bishop” Republican Randy Altschuler trumpeted over and over again in voluminous advertising, in print and on TV and radio. “Career Politician Tim Bishop abuses the system at our expense,” it was repeatedly claimed. “Tim Bishop: The Only Job He Cares About Is His Own.” The continuous barrage of deeply negative advertising was financed not only by the Altschuler campaign but by outside entities. Incumbent Bishop says that $3.5 million came from outside groups “to attack me.” It was, says Mr. Bishop, the “most expensive Congressional race in Long Island’s history.”

Mr. Bishop returned fire by zeroing in on how Mr. Altschuler became a millionaire by pioneering outsourcing, setting up a company that specialized in providing workers overseas for U.S. businesses. He cited Mr. Altschuler’s statement that, “In India, you get a much higher standard of person.”

Does Mr. Altschuler’s second loss to Mr. Bishop, and the central focus both times on outsourcing, point to it being a permanent albatross, a fatal political flaw for Mr. Altschuler? Quite likely. Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle spoke of Mr. Altschuler’s background in outsourcing as being among his “flaws” when Mr. LaValle initially wouldn’t support Mr. Altschuler for the GOP’s lst CD nomination in 2010.

This year Mr. Altschuler stressed that his company, OfficeTiger, also “created jobs in America” — printed in bold in campaign literature, adding, in normal type, “and around the world.” His material declared him “a job creator.”

It all didn’t work. Mr. Bishop far surpassed his narrow win over Mr. Altschuler of 2010.

And he did it without the backing of the Independence Party. Under that organization’s Suffolk County and New York State chairman, Frank MacKay, the Independence designation went to Mr. Altschuler. But that didn’t matter either.

Also not mattering was that Newsday, which historically has liked to function as a kingmaker in Long Island politics, editorially endorsed Mr. Altschuler rather than 10-year incumbent Bishop. (Another Newsday endorsement this year which didn’t work out was its support for Mitt Romney for president.)

Election 2012 will continue the sad trend of an absence of women officials from Suffolk at the state level. Of the 15 representatives from Suffolk in state government, there won’t be a single woman. Bridget Fleming, a Southampton Town councilwoman running on the Democratic ticket, was the only woman in races for the four State Senate seats, and though waging a solid campaign, lost to long-time incumbent Republican Kenneth LaValle. The only woman up for State Assembly was Deborah McKee, on the Republican and Conservative lines, and she was trounced by long-time incumbent Democrat Steve Englebright.

With the election last week of Edward Romaine as Brookhaven Town supervisor, the Suffolk Legislature will lose a leading member. I’ve written about the Suffolk Legislature since it was created in 1970, and in my judgement, Republican Romaine, whose district has included Shelter Island, has been among the half-dozen finest county legislators in all those years. His departure leaves a huge vacuum. Will his protégé and long-time legislative aide, Bill Faulk, get the GOP nod to replace him?

And, most remarkably, Democrats won five of six state Supreme Court seats in the judicial district covering Suffolk and Nassau. Years ago, a Democratic judicial nomination in Republican-dominated Suffolk was tantamount to a suicide run. Among the GOP losers was incumbent Republican Justice James M. Catterson, son of the former Suffolk DA.

The political demographics and direction of Suffolk County have changed through the years — as they also have in the United States, as demonstrated by the re-election of Barack Obama. Still, we have much to work on here in the fair representation of women in government.

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