Can a ne’er-do-well get Bishop re-elected? – By George J. Marlin

The following appears in the March 28-April 3, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:

For decades, New York’s 1st Congressional District, which encompasses the East End of Long Island, has been viewed by political analysts as a highly competitive “swing” district.

In the 1950s, the district was reliably Republican. But in 1960, Democrat Otis Pike, who lost his first run for the seat in 1958, won a rematch with 50.4 percent of votes cast. Pike went on to win eight more times, garnering on average about 52 percent of the vote in each election.

When Pike retired in 1978, the district was captured by William Carney, a registered Conservative who had also received the nomination of the Republican Party. Carney stepped down in 1986 and was succeeded by Democrat George Hochbrueckner, who lost in the 1994 GOP sweep to Michael Forbes.

Forbes switched to the Democratic Party in July 1999 and went on to lose the Democratic primary in 2000. Republican Felix Grucci retained the seat, but went down in 2002 to Tim Bishop, who squeezed in by 1 percent.

Since then, Bishop has managed to be re-elected by narrow margins in hotly contested and well-financed races.

This year, Bishop is on the GOP hit list because of the Independent Office of Congressional Ethics finding that there’s “substantive reason” to believe the congressman violated the law when he sought a donation from a Sagaponack resident while assisting that person in getting a fireworks permit.

The obvious candidate to knock off Bishop is State Sen. Lee Zeldin. He cut his political teeth running unsuccessfully for the 1st district seat in 2008, then bounced back in 2010 to win the state Senate seat. He was easily re-elected in 2012.

Zeldin has an impressive résumé. A Suffolk County native, he passed the bar exam at 23 and went on to serve four years active duty in the U.S. Army. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division that was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraq Freedom. Today, he holds the rank of major in the Army Reserves.

Unfortunately, Zeldin faces a GOP primary and must expend financial resources to fend off opponent George Demos.

Demos, who entered the primary in 2012 then abruptly dropped out, is a former SEC lawyer who apparently married into a wealthy family and has been living the life of a ne’er-do-well. Federal financial disclosure records reveal that since he married Chrysa Tsakopoulos, his personal assets have increased from $365,000 to about $5 million. This is interesting, considering he declared that he had zero salary income in 2012 and 2013.

More interesting is his campaign war chest. Demos loaned his campaign $2 million and, according to recent federal filings, of the $201,000 he has additionally raised, 73 percent ($147,000) came from 96 California residents – a vast majority of whom have previously given to Democratic candidates. Demos only raised $4,300 on Long Island.

Why California? Demos’ father-in-law, Angelo Tsakopoulos, is a major California Democrat fundraiser and supporter of President Barack Obama. Demos’ sister-in-law, Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, a buddy of Nancy Pelosi, became Obama’s ambassador to Hungry in 2010.

Dark blue California Democrats giving contributions to an East Coast Republican? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time Democrats gave money to a weak Republican to help re-elect a Democrat.

I, for one, am tired of rich guys who actually earned their money telling us we need them in public life. But a guy living off the largesse of others? No, that’s not for me. And hopefully it’s not for Republicans and Conservatives in the 1st district.

Residents in eastern Long Island need a representative in Washington who has worked hard to earn their respect and votes. That’s Lee Zeldin.

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