The Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees has endorsed Republican Randy Altschuler over Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Bishop in this year’s race in the 1st Congressional District.
The union endorsed Mr. Altschuler in part because of his stance against Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s plan to sell the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank to a private buyer for $23 million. The union represents more than 8,500 full- and part-time municipal employees working for Suffolk County.
“Randy Altschuler portrays the signs of a true leader—someone who is prepared to step up and fight, even when the odds are against him,” Daniel P. Farrell, the president of the union, said in a prepared statement. “When pressed by our union this year to take a more public position against the sale of the infirmary by the county executive from his own party, Randy’s opponent would not.”
The move marks the second time this year Mr. Altschuler snatched an endorsement that belonged to the longtime incumbent two years ago. The Independence Party—representing more than 7,000 votes that buoyed Mr. Bishop to victory in a nail-biting race he won against Mr. Altschuler in 2010 by 600 votes—also endorsed Mr. Altschuler this year.
Jon Schneider, the current deputy county executive for intergovernmental affairs and former district director for Mr. Bishop, said the federal government doesn’t have anything to do with the nursing home issue. He pointed out that Mr. Bellone “inherited a deficit that was north of $500 million,” and that the county lost $14 million on the facility this year. He also pointed out that all the employees at the facility will be offered jobs if it’s sold.
“Selling this home is a critical part of balancing the budget this year,” Mr. Schneider said.
He added that he doesn’t think the endorsement will negatively impact Mr. Bishop at the polls in November. “I think this should have a good impact for Congressman Bishop, because what voters can see is that Tim Bishop is someone who’s got character and is essentially someone willing to put Suffolk County taxpayers above his own self-interest,” he said. “And that’s why the guy gets reelected year after year.”
Robert Pierce, the communications director for Mr. Bishop’s campaign, echoed Mr. Schneider’s sentiments. “For the most part, his position on it is this isn’t a federal issue,” he said. “I guess my question is why on earth is Randy Altschuler getting involved in this issue if isn’t solely essentially to pander for an endorsement?”
Meanwhile, Mr. Altschuler said the endorsement was “critically important” to his campaign, according to a statement he issued this week.
“I am honored to have received this endorsement,” he said. “If I am fortunate enough to win in November, I will work with common sense people in both parties to revitalize our economy and bring good jobs back to Long Island.”
In a letter to local media, Mr. Bellone denounced the union’s endorsement of Mr. Altschuler and touted Mr. Bishop’s pro-labor background. He was also critical of Mr. Altschuler’s political motivations in accepting the endorsement.
“Randy Altschuler is a self-proclaimed Tea Party Conservative,” he stated. “… Altschuler tells Tea Party groups he wants to cut the size of government, and then tells public sector unions he opposes efforts to reduce the size of THEIR government. He claims to respect local government, yet when his own self-interest is at stake, inserts his opinion into a non-federal issue.”
But the union commended Mr. Altschuler for his stance.
“This endorsement is not about party or politics, but instead it is about protecting jobs,” Mr. Farrell said. “Randy stepped up when many others would not to say no to the sale of the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility, and he continues to fight to protect Suffolk’s taxpayers from a bad deal.”