For a while it looked like the Jewish Republican caucus in Congress would double in size – but after one of the year’s closest House races was decided conclusively this week, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will still be its only member.
It took more than a month, but Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop was certified the winner Tuesday in the First Congressional District in Suffolk County’s East End, narrowly defeating Republican challenger Randy Altschuler.
Altschuler called Bishop at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday to concede the race and congratulate him on winning a fifth term 36 days after the polls closed.
Although initial returns showed Bishop the winner, additional votes were later discovered that gave Altschuler the edge. But when absentee and affidavit ballots were counted, Bishop regained the lead.
There were calls for a hand recount, but the Suffolk County Board of Elections conducted an audit of 3 percent of the voting machines, found that they had performed without error and certified the election.
Had he won, Altschuler would have been only the second Jewish Republican in the House; the other is Cantor, who represents Richmond, Va. Cantor, seen as a rising star in the GOP, is set to become House majority leader in the new Congress.
In a concession statement, Altschuler said he planned to remain active in politics and “play an active role in building the Republican and Conservative Party voices in both Suffolk County and New York State.”
In a conference call to reporters, Bishop said Altschuler had made a “very gracious call [to him]. I told him I have a great deal of respect for him. We wished each other a happy holiday season. I am very pleased he made that call.”
Bishop said that as of Wednesday morning, he was ahead by 270 votes and that there were 1,100 absentee ballots that remained to be counted. He said it was presumed that he would win about 800 of them, thus giving him a final margin of victory of between 500 and 600 votes or less than 1/10 of 1 percent.
Bishop said 195,000 people or 40 percent of the electorate had cast a ballot.
“This is a real lesson in civics,” he said when asked about the importance of voting. “This truly makes the case that every vote counts.”
This election marked the first use in a major election of new voting machines in Suffolk. Bishop said the Suffolk Board of Elections has decided to change the way the votes are tabulated in the future to avoid a repeat of the confusion that characterized this election.
In the future, he said, the memory sticks will be removed from the machines and taken to a central location for tabulation.
Asked if things would be different for him in the next Congress, Bishop replied: “I am now in the minority and my job will be to do the best I can using the seniority and relationships I have to try to influence legislation written by my friends on the other side of the aisle. I will try to see that my constituents’ issues are dealt with and resist whatever I consider to be detrimental to my constituents.”