- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2010

And then there was one.

The battle for the last undecided U.S. House seat of the 2010 midterm vote is taking place along a gilded stretch of New York’s Long Island, where incumbent Democratic Rep. Timothy H. Bishop and GOP challenger Randy Altschuler are separated by only about 230 votes after a seesaw recount battle.

The deciding factor in the 1st Congressional District will be the roughly 2,000 yet-to-be-opened absentee ballots, with both sides filing hundreds of challenges. All 434 other House races are in the books, with Republicans having posted a net gain of 63 seats.

The Altschuler campaign thinks more than 1,200 of the votes were cast by ineligible people with summer homes in such upscale communities as Amagansett and Sag Harbor but whose legal residences are in Manhattan or elsewhere outside the district. The area is a onetime GOP stronghold that stretches east from working-class Mastic to exclusive Montauk.

An Altschuler win would give Republicans nine of the state’s 29 House seats, up from just three in 2008.

“This district includes the Hamptons, so there are lots of vacation homes,” Altschuler spokesman Rob Ryan said Monday. He dismissed many of the Democratic campaign’s challenges as “frivolous at best.”

Bishop spokesman Jon Schneider countered Monday that at least some of the Altschuler campaign’s residency challenges appear “off-base.”

“They challenged the residency of Mr. Bishop’s 86-year-old parents, who have lived in Southampton their entire lives,” he said.

The race between Mr. Bishop, a four-term incumbent, and Mr. Altschuler, a Harvard Business School graduate raised by a single mom, has been hotly contested from the start, with the rival campaigns even disagreeing over the unofficial vote totals before the absentee ballots are counted.

Mr. Bishop was declared the winner Nov. 2, then a recount put Mr. Altschuler briefly in the lead.

Now, Mr. Bishop says he leads by 235 votes; Mr. Altschuler says the number is 234.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride from the start,” Mr. Ryan said. “One day you’re up, and one day you’re down. But I’m confident in our challenges. They’re solid and backed by law. This race is about people who live and work in the community, not about those in second homes.”

In addition, the Bishop campaign said its candidate is challenging 790 absentee ballots while Mr. Altschuler is challenging 1,261. The Altschuler campaign said its candidate is challenging 1,239 and Mr. Bishop is challenging 770.

On Tuesday, a commissioners board will rule on the absentee ballots and any disagreements will likely go to the Suffolk County Supreme Court. Mr. Ryan said a judge could visit the ballot checks tomorrow, but no court date has been set.

One thing both sides agree on is that the race has been one of the hardest fought of the 2010 midterms.

“I knew early this was going to be a close, tough race,”Mr. Schneider said. “We fought hard in this anti-incumbent tsunami. We would have liked a win in November, but we’ll take one in December.”

The only other congressional race still to be decided from the Nov. 2 vote is the U.S. Senate race in Alaska.

In Alaska, the votes are still be recounted in the race between GOP candidate Joe Miller and GOP incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, running as a write-in candidate after losing the primary. Ms. Murkowski leads by thousands of votes, but Mr. Miller has filed a lawsuit regarding how the Murkowski write-in ballots were tabulated.

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