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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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GOP Family Feuds

Despite compelling evidence to the contrary, media reports abound about how Republican candidates need the Conservative Party’s nomination to win a general election.

Looking all the way back to November 2009, I recall Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was elected, with his name appearing on the Republican line and a Conservative Party candidate actively opposing Mangano. Why can’t a similar scenario play out this year in Nassau’s 4th Congressional District (CD) and Suffolk’s 1st CD?

Let’s first examine the 4th CD, which covers southwestern Nassau and has been represented since 1997 by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola). Nassau County Legislator Francis X. Becker, Jr. (R-Lynbrook) is the GOP’s official choice to challenge McCarthy but Frank Scaturro, a New Hyde Park native who served as counsel for the Constitution on the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary committee, has launched a petition drive to get his name on the ballot and force a Republican primary on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Becker and Scaturro may also square off against one another on the second Tuesday in September in a Conservative Party primary. Should one of them get the Republican nomination, and the other the Conservative line, it would set up a three-way race. The conventional wisdom will then hold that, with the anti-Rep. McCarthy vote being split, she is easily returned to Washington, D.C. for another two years, subsequently disappearing from public view as if in the federal witness protection program. When this same Congressional seat was in the Republican column, however, then-former state Assemblyman Dan Frisa prevailed in 1994’s general election even though Frisa’s vanquished GOP primary rival, an incumbent U.S. House Member, had his name appear on the Conservative line that November.

Turning to Suffolk’s 1st CD on the East End, there are three well-financed Republicans vying for the GOP nomination: Randy Altschuler, a St. James entrepreneur; Chris Cox of Westhampton Beach, a lawyer and President Nixon’s grandson; and George Demos, a Ronkonkoma resident who was a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement attorney between 2002 and 2009 (a dubious credential in 2010, I’ll admit).

Altschuler has already secured the Conservative Party’s nomination, meaning his name will be on the 1st CD ballot in November, no matter what happens in September’s GOP primary. If either Cox or Demos is the choice of the district’s registered Republicans, that automatically means Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) will be re-elected, most pundits will say.

That sentiment ignores the 1st CD’s quirky electoral history. Handicapping outcomes in eastern Suffolk County is difficult. You can start by looking at how Rep. Bishop became a Congressman in 2002. His ouster of then-Rep. Felix Grucci, a Republican, came by the slimmest of margins. Two years before that, then-Brookhaven town supervisor Grucci was far from a mortal lock to reach Capitol Hill when making his first bid for this U.S. House seat. Yet Rep. Michael Forbes, a Republican who became a Democrat in 1999, was stunningly defeated in 2000’s Democratic primary, so Grucci didn’t even end up facing an incumbent in the general election. The moral of the story: get your name on the ballot, and take it from there.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: