It may be the same two names on the major party ticket lines in this fall's First Congressional District race, but more changes are afoot as the county's biggest public employee union is set to endorse Republican Randy Altschuler, a reversal from its 2010 backing of incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop, who
Vital to the endorsement of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees is Altschuler's stance toward keeping the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Home in county hands. Currently it is for $23 million, and close to 200 SCAME employees work there.
The union — which boasts an active membership of 6,500 with another 1,800 retirees — has said Bishop has failed to fight to keep it open.
“Randy’s willingness to stand up and speak out against the county’s raw deal on the nursing home sale was critical to our membership,” said SCAME President Dan Farrell in a statement. “Beyond that, Randy’s proven track record as an outside-the-beltway job creator makes him uniquely suited to reach across party lines in Washington to fix our economy."
Earlier this year, Altschuler , which had endorsed Bishop in the last election cycle. Bishop received 7,300 votes on the Independence line in 2012. As endorsements roll in through the campaign season, Bishop announced last week that the L.I. Environmental Voters' Forum, Sierra Club, and League of Conservation Voters all had his backing.
In regards to Foley, Bishop's campaign stated on Tuesday, "This is a county issue. It has nothing to do with the purview of a federal race."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone wrote a on the matter, stating that his plan to sell the nursing home will save the county $30 million next year and require a private purchaser of the facility to keep all the patients housed there and offer union jobs to all existing employees.
According to Altschuler spokeswoman Diana Weir though, the level of government the sale is taking place on doesn't mean a federal candidate can't question the process, especially when jobs could be at stake.
"It isn't necessarily about the sale of the nursing home, whether or not that should happen," she said. "It's about protecting as many jobs as possible at a time when we're losing jobs like mad."
Weir pointed a decreased appraisal price the county received for the nursing home this year — $22.75 million — compared to a 2010 appraisal of $36 million. But Jon Schneider, a deputy executive with Bellone's office who formerly worked under Bishop, said a large portion of that drop in appraised value was a cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates.
"Ironically, he supports a platform that would make things worse," Schneider said.
Altschuler is expected to receive the endorsement on Tuesday afternoon, and according to Towle, will speak at a Tuesday hearing on the Foley sale at 5:30 p.m., at the County Center in Riverhead. Another hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m. in Hauppauge.