Another New York House race was suddenly back in play amid ongoing vote-counting today, as a recanvass of the ballot machines erased a 3,400-vote deficit for Republican Randy Altschuler in New York's 1st District and vaulted him nearly 400 ballots over Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop.
It's the second House race in New York in a week in which a large deficit was suddenly reversed as new totals came in, or as the machines were gone over again. Altschuler, a self-funding businessman who ran on a fusion ticket of both the Republican and Conservative Party lines, is now up 392 votes, his campaign spokesman Rob Ryan confirmed.
Two Bishop aides didn't respond to repeated requests for comment. A Suffolk County Board of Elections spokeswoman also didn't return calls.
But a Bishop aide confirmed to Newsday that they are down nearly 400 votes heading into the weekend, with some 9,000 absentee ballots set to be counted starting toward the end of next week.
"I feel much better today than I did yesterday," said Suffolk County Conservative Party chairman Ed Walsh, a strong Altschuler supporter. "We're in the hunt."
The issue, according to Altschuler's camp, appeared tied to the use of the new electronic voting machines, which are being used throughout the state for the first time and which have been criticized for problems both in the September primary and in the general election.
While there's still much left to be sifted through, the shift puts Altschuler in contention for the district, in a state where national Republicans already captured five seats in Tuesday'selection.
The other congressional district that saw a big switch in the pre-absentee ballot count was in the 25th District, where Republican Ann Marie Buerkle is now leading Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei by 659 votes.
If either of the seats is a Republican pickup, it would make New York the state with the biggest GOP midterm gains this cycle, for a total of six. And seven seats gained would be a major feat.
National Republicans were already descending on the 25th District for the rest of the count, but the 1st is now likely to get attention as well.
Bishop has held the seat since 2002, but the swing district - which voted for George W. Bush in 2004 - has always tilted conservative, and it made the Democratic incumbent a prime target this cycle.
Altschuler won a three-way Republican primary against former SEC attorney George Demos and Richard Nixon grandson Chris Cox, the son of state GOP chairman Ed Cox who joined the field in January in a move that reverberated for Republican politics statewide.
He also got the strong nod from the Conservative Party, a crucial line in the district, and fended off a write-in primary attempt by Cox.
Altschuler was battered within his primary, and by Democrats, over reports of outsourcing of jobs to India, which he minimized and insisted happened on a small scale as he created jobs locally.
Republicans, meanwhile, hit Bishop as too close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and painted him as a "job killer."
There was also an infusion of outside money into the district, including from the GOP-supportive 60 Plus Association.
If Altschuler wins, he'll be the second Jewish Republican in the House. He was supported strongly by current House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.