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Hurricane Stalls Some Local Political Campaigns

In the final days before Election Day, some candidates are focused on relief efforts while others are able to continue their campaigns.

During the time when candidates would normally be ramping up last-minute campaign efforts, candidates in some state and local races are instead dividing their time between reaching potential voters and helping those in need.

While static campaign efforts such as media ads and mailings may be unaffected, many events – including the last joint appearance by U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Southampton, and his Republican challenger Randy Altschuler, originally set for Friday night in Patchogue – have been canceled. Phone lines are down and neighborhoods are marred by downed trees and power lines, making campaign efforts by phone and by foot nearly impossible and somewhat hazardous.

State Assemb. Steve Englebright, D-Setauket, said Hurricane Sandy has "functionally suspended most campaigning."

"I am working to help people, help get services to circumstances and individuals," said Englebright, who is running for his 11th term. "... [It's] not appropriate to even think about imposing on people with a request for them to take a look at the question of voting, when many homes are in such terrible crisis."

Ed Romaine, the Republican candidate for Brookhaven town supervisor who is currently serving as county legislator in the 18th Legislative District, said it this way: "There is no campaign anymore.

"This is not a time for politics. It's all about helping people in need," he said. "The campaign, in essence, ended when the storm hit."

Romaine said he has been busy driving around both Brookhaven and his East End legislative district surveying the damage.

"We have major environmental problems in Mastic Beach, Fire Island," he said. "North shore communities have been impacted, flooded. This is going to be a major problem."

But for Altschuler, despite putting some things on hold during the week, spokeswoman Diana Weir said campaign efforts will probably pick back up on Saturday.

"It’s pretty difficult right now. ... This has put a crimp in everybody’s life, never mind the campaign,” Weir said.

A spokeswoman for Deborah McKee, Englebright's Republican challenger, said McKee – who works as a 911 emergency dispatcher – suspended campaign activities while working to dispatch emergency crews.

"Since the storm has passed, Debbie has been monitoring the devastation left by Sandy," said representative Nicole Flotteron.

McKee resumed campaigning again on Thursday by visiting Port Jefferson Station business owners and residents who were impacted by the storm and will be walking neighborhoods up until Election Day, Flotteron said.

On Friday morning, New York State Senate candidate Bridget Fleming, D-Noyac, said her principal concern in recent days, as a Southampton Town councilwoman, has been the post-storm response and the new problems that arise every couple of hours.

"My primary responsibility is to make sure people have what they need in terms of power and information and shelter and safety, so that's where my main focus has been."

Crises, such as Long Island gas stations running out of fuel, require a nonpartisan response, Fleming said. However, Fleming said her team has not given up campaigning. "As a matter of fact, I am on my way to the radio station right now to record a radio spot."

Her campaign volunteers are working remotely so they can conserve fuel, and doing their best to reach out to voters, she said. No one can predict what voter turnout will be in light of Sandy, she said, though she added that she expects people will make the effort to get out and vote because it is an important presidential election year.

Bobby Pierce, a spokesman for Bishop, said the Congressman is “trying to do double duty,” getting constituents FEMA information and coordinating with Suffolk County’s Emergency Response Office.

“The election is still going to go off, Nov. 6 is still coming … We’re just making sure people know the elections will happen and they still have a very important choice to make,” Pierce said.

Brian Beedenbender, the Democratic candidate for Brookhaven supervisor who is currently on a leave of absence from his position as town chief of staff, could not be reached for comment.

Senator Ken LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, who is the incumbent Republican candidate for New York State's First Senate District, also could not be reached for comment.

With reporting by Lon Cohen and Joseph Pinciaro.

Jaguar-Guy November 03, 2012 at 05:51 PM
His daughter will "put the bite on you" Monday. Glad you are alright.
Jaguar-Guy November 03, 2012 at 05:52 PM
He's got one ad - finally - that is 50% about him doing good, and 50% negative Randy.
Gregg Charles November 03, 2012 at 07:20 PM
WORD!!!
Carter Biggs November 06, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Amen! I can't believe the money that must have gone into this silly election that could have been used to help folks out.On top of that, all they are is attack ads against the other guy!! Sorry about the rant...
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