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Aug 19, 2009 10:47 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach man considers making bid for Congress

Aug 19, 2009 10:47 AM

Although the 2010 Congressional race is still more than a year away, one man from Westhampton Beach is already asking the question: Should I run?

Richard Blumenthal, 56, a guidance counselor with the Connetquot School District who has never run for public office, said he is seriously considering making a bid for the New York’s 1st Congressional District seat, the one currently held by U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, a Democrat from Southampton. Rep. Bishop, who is now serving his fourth two-year term in office, will be seeking reelection next year, according to representatives from his office.

A registered Republican for the past 20 years, Mr. Blumenthal has not officially declared his candidacy, though he has announced his intentions to explore that possibility on his website, ShouldIrun.com. There he details his political views and asks residents for their feedback about whether or not he should seek the GOP’s endorsement next year to unseat Rep. Bishop.

“I’ve become very concerned about the future of the country and the direction that our current representative is taking us,” Mr. Blumenthal said in a recent interview.

On his website, Mr. Blumenthal writes about his concern over several prominent issues, such as the spending of federal stimulus money, energy independence and the country’s $11.7 trillion national debt.

“That’s a real worry to me,” he said. “The world will eventually figure out that we can’t pay this incredible debt.”

Jon Schneider, Mr. Bishop’s deputy chief of staff, declined to comment directly on Mr. Blumenthal’s possible election bid. He added that, for the time being, the congressman is focusing on his job.

“There will be a time and a place for politics,” Mr. Schneider said. “The election is over a year away and we look forward to a vigorous debate.”

Mr. Blumenthal said that if he chooses to run, he hopes to seek the GOP endorsement from the East End’s Republican committees.

Both Southampton Town Republican Committee Chairman Marcus Stinchi and Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman Harold Withers did not return calls seeking comment this week.

Mr. Blumenthal is not the only person who has expressed interest in trying to unseat Rep. Bishop. Randy Altschuler, a businessman from St. James who moved to the area about two years ago, also recently announced his intentions of possible seeking Republican endorsement for the November 2010 congressional race. Mr. Altschuler, the executive chairman of CloudBlue, a provider of recycling services for electronic equipment, has been stumping at GOP events over the past several weeks.

According to Tom Knobel, who was speaking on behalf of Suffolk County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Cathy L. Richter Geier, the party’s county and town committees officially announce their slate of candidates by Memorial Day of an election year. He added that unofficial agreements can be made prior to the nominating conventions.

“They will formalize their decision at that time,” Mr. Knobel said of the spring nominating conventions.

Even if a candidate receives the endorsement of his or her party, he or she still must collect a certain number of signatures in a designated amount of time in order to get on the ballot. The number of signatures is not determined until just before the collection period, Mr. Knobel said.

If more than one candidate gets enough signatures, the result will be a primary election.

As a political newcomer, Mr. Blumenthal said he chose the internet as the best forum to share his political views with voters and to get feedback from potential constituents.

“I am really coming out of nowhere,” he said. “I kind of have to introduce myself to the world.”

He said that, so far, the response from people visiting his website has been positive. On his site he details his vision, which he calls a “plan from strength,” and includes identifying the existing strengths of our country and the planning around them.

For example, he said he would like to see a decrease in America’s dependency on foreign oil and, instead, see more of a focus on ways of generating energy within the country, including domestic drilling for oil. In his own home on Beach Road, Mr. Blumenthal uses photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight into energy, thus helping the environment and saving money.

A 1976 graduate of SUNY College at Old Westbury, Mr. Blumenthal received his undergraduate degree in politics, economics and society. He earned his master’s degree in school counseling from C.W. Post in 1983. He has lived in Westhampton Beach for the past 19 years with his wife, Linda, and their two daughters.

Although he has not received any contributions, and does not plan to solicit any as of yet, Mr. Blumenthal said he will continue to grow his website. If he garners enough support, he said his next step would be to get enough signatures to get on the ballot next November.

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