On Tuesday, November 6, Suffolk County voters must decide whether to reelect Democrat incumbent US Representative Tim Bishop to his seat representing New York’s 1st Congressional District, or take a chance and shake things up with Republican challenger Randy Altschuler.
This year’s election is a rematch between the candidates just two years after Bishop defeated Altschuler and earned a fifth term in the House in one of the closest congressional contests of 2010. (Bishop garnered 98,316 votes to Altschuler’s 97,723.) The 2012 race could be another nail-biter.
A Siena College Poll of 624 likely voters had Bishop leading by a substantial 13-points in mid September, but an October 12 poll—funded by conservative super PAC Prosperity First—puts Altschuler ahead by three points among the 400 voters surveyed. If 2012 is as close as 2010, every vote will hold significant weight, so it’s important to know the candidates.
A 12th-generation Southampton resident, Rep. Bishop earned a BA in History from Holy Cross College in 1972 and then received his Masters Degree in Public Administration at Long Island University in 1981.
Bishop, 62, went on to become provost of LIU’s Southampton College for 29 years before he ran for office for the first time and won New York’s 1st Congressional District seat in 2002. He was reelected four times and has served nine years in the House of Representatives. He is a member of the House’s Education and Workforce Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and he is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. Bishop’s wife Kathryn is the founder and director of The Children’s School for early childhood development in Southampton, and they have two daughters, Molly and Meghan, and one grandchild, Nathan.
A successful businessman/entrepreneur from St. James, Altschuler earned a BA at Princeton University before studying as a Fulbright Scholar in Vienna, Austria and eventually receiving his MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School. Now 42 years old, he currently serves as Executive Chairman of CloudBlue, an electronics recycling company he co-founded after selling his previous business OfficeTiger—a company dedicated to upgrading business support services—in 2006. Altschuler is a member of the Smithtown Chamber of Commerce and an active participant in New Yorkers for Growth, a group created to support “candidates for state and local office who support fiscally responsible policies which will restore our economy.” His wife Cheryl is a pediatrician in Shirley and Port Jefferson, and they have two young children, Noah and Sasha.
Bishop has accused Altschuler of outsourcing jobs to other countries with his company Office Tiger, which he founded in 2000 and sold in 2006.
Altschuler admits to having “employees around the world,” but contends that without those jobs, he would not have been able to create so many American jobs. Bishop said outsourcing is “the scourge of this economy” and sponsored a bill to stop companies that outsource from receiving federal loans and grants.
Altschuler has accused Bishop of asking for campaign donations in exchange for helping a Southampton resident get permits to have fireworks at his son’s bar mitzvah. Bishop denies any wrongdoing and says he has never had his integrity or ethics questioned during his time in the 1st congressional district. He pointed out 15,000 instances when he personally helped constituents in the district.
Bishop has supported various tax cuts during his time in the House, but he is also a supporter of progressive and fair taxation, which includes charging greater levies on America’s wealthiest earners. He supports the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which was designed to stop very high-income earners from using deductions, tax breaks and loopholes to avoid paying federal income tax. Bishop is opposed to former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and generally opposed to the idea that tax cuts will solve the current economic crisis.
As co-chair of the Democratic Budget Group, Bishop meets weekly with House Democrats and outside experts and officials to discuss budget issues. He is also a member of the “GoBig” Coalition, a bipartisan group of House members trying to reduce the deficit by $3-4 trillion with a mix of spending cuts and closing tax loopholes to increase revenue over 10 years. He voted for the Budget Control Act to cap discretionary spending each year, resulting in $1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.
Through his seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Bishop believes preserving federal investments in infrastructure will add jobs and stimulate the local economy.
Alschuler says he’d like Suffolk County to utilize its research, technology and educational institutions to become “the Silicone Valley of the East,” and as a self-made businessman, he says he’s the guy to make it happen. He has presented a “10-point plan to foster job creation and investment in Suffolk County’s future.” Altschuler believes the private sector creates jobs, not government, so laws should make it easier to create those jobs. He wants to create less regulatory roadblocks and more tax breaks for startup companies, such as doubling the minimum amount of revenue generated before regulatory laws kick in.
Altschuler wants to simplify and reform the tax code without raising taxes. He supports extending the Bush tax cuts, he wants to cut taxes by 20% for small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, eliminate the death tax, repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax and cut corporate income tax by 25% while also closing the loopholes in the corporate tax structure. He also wants to adopt a territorial tax system so US companies operating overseas aren’t taxed twice.
He says excessive inspections and permitting has made it difficult for small businesses to grow, so he plans to eliminate or reduce these overextended processes for residents and businesses as well.
Bishop voted in favor of President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” designed to make health insurance affordable and available to all Americans. He believes Obamacare gives the upper hand to patients instead of insurance companies and that it keeps healthcare decisions between doctors and patients. The plan does not allow insurance companies to deny coverage for preexisting conditions, it doesn’t allow limits on coverage costs during the year or a patient’s lifetime, and it allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. Bishop says repealing Obamacare would increase Medicare premiums and take away tax credits for small businesses. Bishop has fought against excessive premium increases and supported legislation to ensure premium increases are not adding to insurance company profit margins. He supports research in cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses.
Altschuler opposes Obamacare, which he calls a “big-government takeover of healthcare,” and he supports repealing and replacing it. He admits the healthcare system is flawed and he agrees with certain parts of the Affordable Care Act—such as stopping discrimination against those with preexisting conditions—but Altschuler says it is far too costly and it scraps the best quality of care in the world for “European-style socialized medicine.” Instead, he supports allowing insurance to be sold across state lines to increase competition and lower rates. He supports giving small businesses the ability to pool together and buy healthcare for employees at a lower group rate, and he believes medical decisions should remain between doctors and patients, not insurance companies or government bureaucrats. He says the legislation would cost about $1.7 trillion over 10 years, yet it won’t reduce the cost of healthcare or place focus on medical malpractice tort reform.
Bishop is a staunch advocate for environmental protection and intelligent use of natural resources. He has stood against sacrificing the environment to reward heavy industry and he has secured more than $35 million to preserve beaches and waterways. Bishop helped advance the dredging local harbors and inlets to allow fishing and other maritime industry access. He received a 100% on the League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard in 2011.
Altschuler supports an all-inclusive national energy strategy to reduce US dependence on foreign oil and lower energy prices for consumers. He believes in pursuing renewable energy and environmentally responsible offshore drilling. Altschuler promotes private investment in renewable energies, such as wind, solar, water and bio-fuels to conserve natural resources, help the environment and create future jobs in the green energy industry.
Bishop, a former college provost, is recognized for his work to make higher education affordable for everyone. He is a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.
Altschuler says parents and teachers and local school boards should guide educational policy in their own districts. He believes in reforming tenure so bad teachers are not rewarded for longevity and classroom results are recognized with merit pay.
Gay Rights, Abortion, Gun Control, Immigration
Bishop, who has a gay daughter, is against the Defense of Marriage Act and believes gays should have the right to marry. He also voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He believes in a woman’s right to choose and has a 100% pro-choice voting record. Bishop opposes the absolute right to gun ownership and has voted in support of various gun control measures. He supports immigration reform and voted in favor of the Mexican border fence, but Bishop is in favor of earned legalization and he voted in favor of the Dream Act giving undocumented youth a chance at citizenship.
Altschuler says he believes marriage should be between one man and one woman, but same sex couples should be allowed to enter into a civil union that allots them the same rights as married couples. He is pro-life, though Altschuler recently confirmed that he is not in favor of forcing victims of rape or incest, or women whose health is in danger to take pregnancy to term. He received an “A” rating by the National Rifle Association and has been endorsed by gun groups. Altschuler supports comprehensive immigration reform, including the defensive of US borders, and he says illegal immigrants should not be rewarded with amnesty.