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Stage Set for Congressional Race

Posted on 23 September 2010

by Karl Grossman

It was a primary of significance last week—firmly dashing the well-financed bid by Richard Nixon’s grandson to be a member of Congress, showing Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was right in seeing Rick Lazio as a weak candidate for governor, and demonstrating that the new voting machines being introduced here and elsewhere in New York State have serious problems. Indeed, with many more times the number of voters turning out on Election Day, a big mess can be anticipated.

The attempt by Christopher Cox, the former president’s grandson, to be the Republican candidate for Congress in the lst CD was among the more brazen moves in Suffolk political history. He only last year claimed residence in the district and that was by listing an uncle’s Westhampton Beach estate as an address.

Mr. Cox, 31, a business consultant from Manhattan, had the political skids greased for him due to his father, Edward Cox, being the new state Republican chairman, and his having access to loads of personal money. I can’t recall more political road signs erected by any primary candidate in Suffolk. But the signs, mailings, TV commercials and his father’s clout meant nothing as Mr. Cox came in a distant third in a three-way race.

The stage is now set for a hot contest between incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop and  GOP victor Randy Atschuler. The Bishop campaign is zeroing in on the source of Mr. Atschuler’s fortune: his pioneering the outsourcing of jobs to India. The Bishop campaign manager declared primary night: “Long Islanders are too smart to hire someone who got rich trying to put them out of work.” And, at the same time, Mr. Atschuler was launching a hard attack on Mr. Bishop. He charged in his victory speech that Mr. Bishop has voted with the Democratic leadership 97 percent of the time and voters “have had enough of the big-spending, high-taxing, deficit-growing, professional politicians who are destroying our nation’s fiscal well-being.”

The trouncing of GOP designee Lazio, a former county legislator and congressman from Suffolk, by Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino highlights Mr. Levy’s early and correct political instinct that Mr. Lazio would be a poor nominee. This led to Mr. Levy’s great political leap, jettisoning being a lifelong Democrat and enrolling Republican to challenge Mr. Lazio for the GOP nomination for governor. He came very close at the GOP convention in June to getting the required votes to run in the Republican primary against Mr. Lazio—and if he had he would have likely won as Mr. Paladino did.  If only…

And then there were those voting machines.

I went to my polling place, the Old Noyac Schoolhouse, to observe the scene. One man was trying to get his paper ballot accepted. “You have to have patience, the machine is very slow,” one inspector told him. The man waited. Four minutes later the machine suddenly swallowed the ballot, but then gave the notice that “Warning. You have overvoted…To return and correct the ballot, press ‘return.’ To proceed with the ballot as is, press ‘cast.’”

“We had a good system working. Why did we have to change?” asked Jim Thompson of Noyac, a firm believer in the law—he’s a retired Suffolk Police detective.

Anthony De Pinto of Sag Harbor declared “I am upset. I’m angry. Elections are too important to have garbage like we’ve seen today happening. And they are going to use this damn system again on Election Day?”

There were mixed opinions among poll watchers. “Bring back the old machines,” said one. Said another: “Eventually people will figure it out.” As to what will happen Election Day with far more people voting, one inspector joked: “We’re closing.”

Dr. Martin Shepard of Sag Harbor said: “These machines are awful. This took four or five times as long as any previous voting experience. How are they going to use these machines on Election Day?  The old machines were far superior. How could taxpayer money be wasted on these contraptions? I think there is a potential scandal here.”

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