In New York’s first Congressional district, Democrats have been sending in the big guns to help incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop hold onto his seat: Rahm Emanuel threw a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser last month, and Bill Clinton will do the same in June.
Bishop’s trailing one of his potential Republican opponents in cash and he got less than 50% of the vote in a January poll. He voted for health care reform, in a Long Island district with a strong tea party: After a shouting match at one town hall last year led to Bishop asking for a police escort to his car, he suspended town halls for much of the summer.
Looked at it that way, it seems like Bishop’s in trouble. Big trouble.But the Republicans seem poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With five Republicans vying for the seat, the county party decided not to handpick a nominee, setting up a five-way primary come September.
The two strongest candidates have already begun to divide the right. Randy Altschuler has the endorsement of the local Conservative party chair. He used to have the support of the county GOP chair, too, but after a public falling out the chairman now supports Chris Cox, the son of the state Republican Party chairman.
Neither has much political experience or name recognition. Altschuler, a businessman, is self-funding his campaign to the tune of $1.5 million cash on hand, compared to Bishop’s donation-only $1.2 million. In the January SurveyUSA poll, he came within a few points of Bishop, but the poll only tested a general election between him and Bishop.
Cox also has no prior office and is mostly self-funded. He’s also the grandson of President Richard Nixon — something he sees as an advantage.
“Wherever we go people say that my grandfather was their favorite president,” Cox recently told the AP.
But having his dad running the state GOP might not be an advantage, either. Edward Cox says he’s staying out of the primary race, although it’s presumed he supports his son. The elder Cox is in hot water with some Republicans, partly because he supports a gubernatorial candidate who, until recently, was a Democrat. The move was so controversial it prompted an emergency meeting with RNC Chair Michael Steele.
Ed. note: This post has been updated from the original.