With at least 9,000 absentee ballots still to be counted, Republican Randy Altschuler is still hoping for a narrow victory against Democrat Tim Bishop in New York’s politically fickle 1st Congressional District.
With a 3,400 vote lead in the machine tally, Bishop claimed victory on Wednesday. But Altschuler had yet to concede as of noon Thursday.
"We are going to wait until every vote has ben accurately counted," said Altschuler spokesman Rob Ryan. "The race is not over. It’s going to go down to the wire." Ryan said an additional 3,000 absentee ballots may still be in the mail.
The Democrats have already lost several seats upstate, with Republicans unseating John Hall, Scott Murphy, Michael Arcuri and Mathew Zeller, as well as on Staten Island, where freshman Rep. Michael McMahon was ousted by challenger Michael Grimm.
Altschuler would be the second Jewish Republican in Congress and has built ties with Rep. Eric Cantor, who is now likely to be House Majority Leader.
The tally as of Wednesday was 92,252 for Bishop and 88,791 for Altschuler.
At a ballroom at the Watermill Inn in Smithtown Tuesday, Altschuler’s supporters gathered around a TV set watching for coverage of his attempt to unseat Democratic Rep. Timothy Bishop in the First Congressional District on Long Island East End.
As other supporters in an adjacent room noshed on a spread of pasta, hero sandwiches, salad and fruit, the crowd in the main ballroom began thinning because returns were only trickling in and Bishop, 60, was maintaining a steady 3 or 4 percent lead.
“They haven’t counted the votes in Smithtown yet,” supporters of Alschuler, 39, kept saying, referring to the candidates base of support.
By 11:30, only about 40 percent of the vote had been counted.
Robert Ryan, Altschuler’s press secretary, said the candidate was home with his family in St. James and would make the 10-minute drive to the restaurant as soon as the race was decided.
But later it became clear that the race was too close to call and would depend on the counting of more than 9,000 absentee ballots. With all 460 election districts reporting, the incumbent, had 3,461 more votes than Altschuler of the 181,043 votes cast. Bishop declined to declare victory and Altschuler did not concede.
Bishop later expressed confidence that he would be returned for his fifth term in Congress.