08/27/12 7:18pm

FILE PHOTO | Legislator Ed Romaine (R – Center Moriches) as announced he will seek to run for Brookhaven Town Supervisor this fall.

Brookhaven Town Republicans have nominated Shelter Island county Legislator Ed Romaine to run for Brookhaven Town supervisor in a special election this fall, party leaders announced Monday evening.

The committee’s vote to choose Mr. Romaine, of Center Moriches, was unanimous, party leaders announced.

“The Brookhaven Town Republican Committee unanimously supports Ed Romaine as our candidate for town supervisor,” said committee chairman Jesse Garcia. “Ed Romaine is a proven tax fighter who will ‘Reinvent Brookhaven’ and ensure Brookhaven is an affordable place to raise a family, create private sector jobs, grow our local economy, and ensure the rural character of our communities are protected.”

“I am humbled to have the support of the Brookhaven Town Republican Committee,” Mr. Romaine said. “I have lived, raised my family, and paid taxes in this town for more than 40 years. I am committed to making Brookhaven a better place to live and work.”

Democratic Town Supervisor Mark Lesko announced his resignation earlier this month. He’s stepping down to lead Accelerate Long Island, a nonprofit organization.

Mr. Lesko helped found the group, which seeks to make Long Island more appealing to tech startup companies

Mr. Lesko’s resignation comes just before a difficult financial season for the town, which faces a multi-million dollar budget crisis. His resignation takes effect next month.

The Brookhaven Democratic Commitee last week nominated Brian Beedenbender, Mr. Lesko’s chief of staff and also a former county legislator, to run for the supervisor job.

Deputy Supervisor Kathy Walsh will be acting supervisor in Mr. Lesko’s absence, officials said.

Mr. Romaine was a teacher before serving in Brookhaven’s housing and community development department in the 1980s.

From 1986 to 1989, he served as a county legislator and was later elected to Suffolk County Clerk, where he served until 2005.

That year, he was again elected to the Suffolk County Legislature and currently serves the First Legislative District, which reaches from eastern Brookhaven along the North Fork, including Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island town.

Mr. Lesko’s resignation will take effect in September. The special election will be held on Nov. 6.

The winner would be sworn in right after Election Day, with a vote for the legislative seat taking place 60 to 90 days later.

Mr. Romaine would be able to continue serving as a county legislator if he loses the town supervisor race.

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08/06/12 1:00pm

Have you received a text asking you to respond “no” or “stop” or you’ll be charged for a service?

Most people would probably ignore such nonsense, but ignoring the text is a signal to a third party that you want to be charged for its “services.”

State Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) fell victim to this rock-or-a-hard-place scam, called “cramming,” and he’s urging his constituents to contact their cell phone carriers to add what’s called a purchase block to their accounts.

A purchase block bars third parties from tagging services fees to phone bills, he said.

“I was recently a victim of wireless phone bill cramming and would have been charged more than ten dollars a month for a service that I did not explicitly authorize had I not caught this,” Mr. Losquadro said. “I encourage everyone who has a mobile phone to contact their service provider and place a purchase block on their account immediately.”

Once the purchase block is in place, customers are issued a PIN number that must be entered to allow third parties to charge an account.

The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission are investigating thousands of complaints and are predicting the problem will grow as more people grow accustomed to purchasing services through their phones.

“Although this appears to be entirely a federal issue, I am examining possible solutions with the New York State Department of State Division of Consumer Protection and will work with the FCC and FTC towards making purchase blocks a mandatory default feature for all wireless plans,” Mr. Losquadro said. “While many families are currently struggling to pay their bills, the last thing they need to worry about is paying additional money for charges they did not permit or even know they are paying for.”

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12/02/10 2:03pm

With Republican Dan Losquadro declared the winner in the state’s 1st Assembly District race, the prolonged battle between Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop and his Republican challenger, businessman Randy Altschuler, remains the only undecided race in the region. And the last undecided congressional race in the country.

At last report Thursday, Mr. Bishop was leading Mr. Altschuler by 259 votes.

The race will likely be decided by a state Supreme Court judge who arrived at the Board of Elections in Yaphank about 3 p.m. Wednesday to start making calls on contested absentee ballots sent to the district by mail.

Some 71 military ballots, which had to be in officials’ hands by Nov. 24, were counted Tuesday, which narrowed Mr. Bishop’s lead over Mr. Altschuler’s by 20 votes. The candidates’ camps then agreed to concede a total of 418 previously contested absentee ballots — 209 each — and that ended up adding 32 votes to Mr. Bishop’s lead, according to the incumbent’s spokesman, Jon Schneider. Mr. Bishop then picked up an additional 12 votes after the judge made his first ruling Wednesday, allowing 161 paper ballots that for various reasons weren’t scanned on Election Day to count in the race.

Both sides have had a roller coaster ride since election night, when preliminary tallies had Mr. Bishop up by about 3,500 votes. Then a re-canvassing of the optical voting machines, used for the first time in a Suffolk County general election, put him behind his challenger by 383 votes. But Mr. Altschuler watched that lead vanish after the week-long process of counting some 11,500 absentee and affidavit ballots wrapped up last Tuesday, leaving Mr. Bishop up by 235.
Both camps agreed Thursday to allow an additional 52 ballots be counted, 29 that were being contested by Mr. Bishop and 23 by Mr. Altschuler.
Of the 1,473 still-contested ballots that were awaiting the judge’s review, 1,123 were being challenged by the Republican side and 510 by the Democrats.

A required audit of 3 percent of voting machines has revealed no problems with the equipment, officials said.

And while Mr. Bishop appeared ready to declare victory, the rival camp’s suspicions of voter fraud have prompted Republicans to stay and fight — leaving the outcome up to the judge and the court system.

Rob Ryan, Mr. Altschuler’s campaign spokesman, said the courts have subpoena power to require that a voter prove his or her residency in the district, something Board of Elections commissioners can’t do.

Mr. Ryan estimated Mr. Bishop’s lead to actually be closer to 150 votes, considering the Democrats have challenged the votes of some 94 Republican poll inspectors who voted outside the district.

“We should get them back,” Mr. Ryan said of those votes, adding that he expected to see “a lot of contested ballots” end up in the hands of the judge.
He said that, above all, Mr. Altschuler wants to be sure that only the votes of people who can legally vote in the district are counted.

“The Bishop campaign put out their stuff yesterday saying they want to close things down,” Mr. Ryan said. “But two short weeks ago [when Mr. Bishop appeared down], they were calling for a hand recount of every single ballot. And now for some reason they don’t want to wait until this residency issue is dealt with, and the possibility of widespread fraud.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Altschuler’s campaign circulated via email a FoxNews report alleging that 48 of 438 absentee ballot voters in Suffolk County “reviewed” by the Fox News Voter Fraud Unit were “also listed as ‘active’ voters on the New York City rolls.” Being registered in two separate jurisdictions is illegal and is a felony in New York State. According to the report, Fox News found that a Democratic voter cast an absentee ballot in Suffolk County while election records show that the same person voted, on Election Day, in Manhattan.

Mr. Bishop’s spokesman called the fraud allegations “nonsense.”

“We’re not saying Altschuler should concede,” he said. “We’re just saying let’s open the ballots and count the votes,” Mr. Schneider said. “And this FoxNews thing is nonsense. Great, you found one guy who voted twice, but let’s move on. Show me two, show me 10, show me 50 who voted twice.”
He said that no votes had been counted on Thursday, and that the judge wouldn’t be back to the Board of Elections until Wednesday, “so there goes another week.”

“I’m sure there’s not going to be any movement unless they start dropping [contested] ballots,” he added. “We want to all get on with our lives. I’m not worried about the outcome of this election; I’m worried that I’m going to be here on Christmas.”

Mr. Bishop, of Southampton, is seeking his fifth two-year term in office. No 1st District congressman since Otis Pike of Riverhead, a Democrat, has served more than four terms. Mr. Pike served nine terms before retiring in 1978.

As for the state Assembly race, which dragged on exactly three weeks after Election Day Nov. 2, Democrat Marc Alessi conceded to Mr. Losquadro last Wednesday after it appeared he could not make up the more than 800 votes by which he trailed. Both men are residents of Shoreham.

“It has been an absolute privilege to serve the residents of the First Assembly District over the past five years,” Mr. Alessi said in a statement sent just after 4 p.m. last Wednesday. “I’ve taken the state’s problems home with me, internalized them and tried to help — both on the large scale and individually — one constituent at a time.”

In his statement, Mr. Alessi blamed Albany dysfunction for his loss and touted his record in office.

“For five years, I worked tirelessly for the hardworking families of Suffolk and kept my pledges to the people who elected me. I will forever be proud of that,” he said. “While I accomplished much of what I set out to do for Suffolk, there is still more work to be done.”
The attorney said he would focus on his family, as his wife, Gretchen, is expecting the couple’s third child in January.

The two candidates were separated by just 40 votes on election night but Mr. Losquadro increased his lead after election night results were verified and corrected and also during the absentee ballot count.

Mr. Losquadro’s win sets up a special election to finish out the final year of his term in the county Legislature, where he serves as minority leader. Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner has been reported as a possible Republican/Conservative nominee to replace Mr. Losquadro, whom she served four years as a legislative aide before seeking her first public office in 2007.

A source in the Democratic Party did not rule out the possibility of Mr. Alessi pursuing the county seat.

The third local race this year was not a close one, with longtime incumbent Republican state Senator Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson trouncing Democratic challenger Jennifer Maertz of Rocky Point, taking 67 percent of the vote.

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11/30/10 8:55pm

Randy Altschuler

Congressional hopeful Randy Altschuler picked up 20 votes today as 71 military ballots were counted in the tight race between the GOP’s Mr. Altschuler and incumbent Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop, a spokesman for Mr. Altschuler said Tuesday afternoon.

At about 3:30 p.m., Board of Elections workers were still preparing to count about 160 additional paper ballots that for various reasons were not figured into the electronic tallies on Election Day, said the spokesman, Rob Ryan.

Meanwhile, both sides met in state Supreme Court in Riverhead for what was described by Mr. Ryan as an hour-long informational session with a judge whose ruling could ultimately decide the nation’s last undecided race for Congress.

Mr. Altschuler, a St. James businessman, watched his post-Election Day lead of almost 400 votes dissolve after the counting of absentee and affidavit ballots began soon after, with Mr. Bishop taking the lead by 235 votes when the counting of the 11,500 such ballots cast in 1st District race was completed last Tuesday afternoon.

With the military ballots counted, that lead was trimmed to 214. In the end, the race will likely be decided by 2050 disputed ballots — the GOP has contested 1,260 votes while the Democratic camp has contested 790.

“The election commissioners have to go through the challenges. If they don’t come to a resolution then it goes to the judge,” said Mr. Ryan, noting that the court, unlike the Board of Elections, can issue subpoenas as a way of proving a voter’s residency.

Overall, Mr. Bishop is ahead by 97,049 to 96,835 votes, campaign officials said.

Both sides were expected to concede about 100 disputed votes each sometime Tuesday afternoon, as well.

11/23/10 8:50pm

ROBERT OROURK FILE PHOTO | Tim Bishop, pictured here on election night is leading at the close of absentee ballot counting.

Incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop opened up a 235-vote lead over the GOP’s Randy Altschuler as the counting of absentee and affidavit ballots in New York’s 1st Congressional District race wound down Tuesday.

Mr. Altschuler, a St. James businessman, watched his lead of almost 400 votes dissolve after counting began last Tuesday, with Mr. Bishop taking the lead by more than 200 votes Monday afternoon, then making further gains on that margin. Counting of the 11,500 such ballots cast in the congressional race was completed Tuesday afternoon.

“We are very confident that Tim Bishop has won this election,” said Mr. Bishop’s spokesman, Jon Schneider.

Still, the race is by no means decided. Both parties have been directed to appear next Tuesday in Suffolk County Supreme Court to address the some 2,000 challenged ballots, which did not count toward Tuesday’s final tally — including absentee, affidavit and Election Day votes — that had Mr. Bishop ahead by 97,050 to 96,815 votes, Mr. Schneider said.

Mr. Altschuler did not appear ready to concede the contested ballots, and with that the race. As of Tuesday afternoon, the GOP had contested about 1,260 votes while the Democratic camp had contested 790.

“We’re going to evaluate everything and stay progressive in how we’re going to proceed,” Mr. Altschuler’s spokesman, Rob Ryan, said Tuesday — just hours before the final reported tally — about contesting individual ballots and the prospect of a recount. The candidate had been fighting the potential for a hand count when he was leading by 400 votes. “I don’t want to speculate about that at this point,” Mr. Ryan said, but noted that an editorial in Tuesday’s New York Times did call for hand recounts in all yet-to-be decided races in the state, even though they are costly.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bishop, of Southampton, who is seeking his fifth two-year term, headed to Orlando, Fla., Tuesday for his annual family vacation to Disney World.

“Mr. Bishop could be riding on Space Mountain as we speak. We feel good about where this is going,” Mr. Schneider said. “Given that every day we’ve been counting we’ve been picking up votes and given they have 471 more objections than we do. When you consider both sides will get an equal amount of objections dismissed, we feel we have more than 400 votes in the bank.”

Both sides have experienced a roller coaster ride since election night, when preliminary tallies by election workers had Mr. Bishop up about 3,500 votes. A recanvassing of the optical voting machines, used for the first time in a Suffolk County general election, showed he was actually down by 383. And an ongoing audit of 3 percent of voting machines has shown no problems with the equipment.

But that doesn’t mean voters weren’t confused going into the booth, where they were supposed to use a pen to fill in circles next to candidate names. Some voters reported drawing X’s or checkmarks or circling candidates’ names.

The reported confusion could be enough to result in a hand recount, though Mr. Altschuler’s side has argued that the law wouldn’t allow for it without specific grounds, such as a machine audit that found problems with the devices.

The media are updated on the count by campaign managers, as county Board of Election officials in Yaphank won’t provide information until the vote is official.

Neither side would speculate Tuesday as to when a final determination would be made.

“It’s been a seesaw since election night,” said veteran lobbyist Desmond Ryan (no relation to Rob Ryan), who has been watching the 1st Congressional District race closely. “The question now begs, at the end of the day, with such a large number of contested ballots, does it go to court or can it reach some resolve with the Board of Elections?”

Throughout the week-long count of absentee and affidavit ballots, the two sides have been sparring. Mr. Altschuler’s camp has accused the Democrats of contesting military ballots as well as those cast by poll workers and multi-millionaires who have only summer residences in Suffolk County.

Rob Ryan e-mailed a press release to media Monday that read: “We will not let Tim Bishop steal this election.”

Mr. Schneider has repeatedly said the Altschuler campaign’s contested votes came as “part of a game” to make it appear the race was closer than it actually was. “I think it’s a joke; it’s offensive that they think they could be the arbiters who can and cannot vote in this country,” Mr. Schneider said.

Votes from Mr. Bishop’s parents, who sent in absentee ballots from Florida, and the college student son of lame duck state Senator Brian Foley (D-Blue Point), also cropped up as topics of squabbling during the ballot fight.

As for the possible hand recount, Desmond Ryan said, “It boils down to this: Were there problems with the machines? Yes. Large problems? No. Was there some confusion among the senior populations? Yes. So you want to get it right; no matter how long the process takes, the electorate deserves a proper decision.

“The ironic factor in all this,” he continued, “is that the reason so much money was spent on these voting machines was so we would have a paper trail but we wouldn’t have dangling chads,” as in the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

“But we still have two congressional candidates dangling in the wind.”

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