Karl Grossman: Election 2012 Calls for Analysis

Sat, Nov 17, 2012

Election 2012

Election 2012 is past—and with the weeks of trauma and hardship caused by Hurricane Sandy since, it seems like Election Day was months ago. It was a major election on Long Island, as it was elsewhere in the United States, and calls for analysis.

For starters, I must say that the contest in the lst Congressional District was the nastiest ever in my 50 years observing and writing about races 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” trumpeted Republican Randy Altschuler 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 Bishop, the “most expensive Congressional race in Long Island’s history.”

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

Does 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 Altschuler? Quite likely. Suffolk Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle spoke of Altschuler’s background in outsourcing as being among his “flaws” when LaValle initially wouldn’t support Altschuler for the GOP’s lst CD nomination in 2010.

This year Altschuler stressed that his company, Office Tiger, also “created jobs in America”—that was in bold in campaign literature which then added, in normal type, “and around the world.” His material declared him “a job creator.”

It all didn’t work. Bishop, a Southampton resident, far surpassed his narrow win over  Altschuler, of St. James, in 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.)

Regarding the absence of women officials from Suffolk County on the state level, Election 2012 would have that continue. Of the 15 representatives from Suffolk in state government, there still will only be men.

Bridget Fleming, a Southampton Town councilwoman from Noyac, running on the Democratic ticket, was the only woman in races for the four State Senate seats. She waged a vigorous campaign but lost to long-time incumbent Republican Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson. The only woman up for State Assembly was Deborah McKee of Mt. Sinai, on the Republican and Conservative lines, and she was trounced by long-time incumbent Democrat Steve Englebright of East Setauket.

With the election of Edward Romaine as Brookhaven Town supervisor, the Suffolk Legislature will lose a leading member. I’ve also observed and written about the Suffolk Legislature, since it was created in 1970, and Republican Romaine has been among the half-dozen finest county legislators in all those years, in my judgment. His departure leaves a huge vacuum. Will his protégé and long-time chief of staff, Bill Faulk, get the GOP nod to replace him?  Faulk would make a solid successor.

“I want to succeed Ed and continue to be a strong voice for eastern Brookhaven, the North Fork and Shelter Island,” says Faulk of Manorville. “My heart is in the district. You can’t replace Ed Romaine, but I want to continue to be a strong voice for the district.”

Most remarkably, Democrats won five of six state Supreme Court seats in the state judicial district that covers Suffolk and Nassau. Years ago, a Democratic judicial nomination in Republican-dominated Suffolk was tantamount to a suicide run. Among the GOP losers in this election was incumbent Republican Justice James M. Catterson, son of the former Suffolk District Attorney James M. Catterson, Jr.

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. Obama won a majority of votes, too, in Nassau and Suffolk.

Still, the inequitable—indeed, zero!—representation of women from Suffolk County in New York State government provides much that needs to be done in Suffolk.


Karl Grossman has covered Long Island politics for over 50 years.

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