Two of the Republican NY-1 candidates, Randy Altschuler and Chris Cox, are trading barbs over a pledge required by the state Conservative Party that its chosen contender remain in the race all the way through the general election.

Cox, who is battling in court to mount a long-shot OTB challenge for the Conservative line to Altschuler, the party’s nominee, slammed his opponent in a press release last week for refusing to say he would support the winner of the Sept. 14 GOP primary – regardless of the outcome of that race.

Asked at a Smithtown Republican Committee meeting whether back the primary winner if that person is not him, Cox said he replied: “I will support the Republican candidate. I always have and I always will.”

Altschuler, according to Cox, replied that he is in a “bit of a different situation here,” having signed a pledge to the Conservative Party that he would stick out the race through November.

Cox promptly accused Altschuler of being a spoiler, saying he doesn’t share the goal of a “united front” against Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop.

“Mr. Altschuler’s deal with the Conservative Party is exactly the kind of backroom politics that has led to the formation of the Tea Party movement,” Cox said.

“In fact, the largest Tea Party group in our area, the Suffolk County 9-12 Project, has formally backed my campaign. Rather than serving Conservative Party bosses, perhaps Mr. Altschuler should consider a commitment to Long Islanders above all.”

Today, Altschuler’s campaign is firing back by releasing the selfsame pledge Cox slammed his opponent for signing – with Cox’s own name on it.

“Chris Cox has now been caught red handed lying to Republican Primary voters and this time he can’t wriggle out of it,” said Altschuler’s campaign manager Christopher Maloney.

“It’s amazing that a candidate for public office would think he could get away with such a bold face lie. Chris Cox and his campaign need to apologize to the GOP voters and admit that he signed the exact same pledge as Randy Altschuler; committing to run on the Conservative Party line whether or not he won the GOP nomination.”

Cox spokesman Jim Teese told me yesterday that he “wasn’t aware” the Conservative Party was making its designees sign pledges, adding: “I can’t speak for Chris offhand, but I can tell you in screening process for the Republican Party, Chris made that pledge (to back the winner of the GOP primary) early on.”

Cox is also running on an independent “Taxpayer” line, which would seem to undercut his argument. But Teese noted there are “different ways to get off (the line),” and also pointed out that just because a candidate’s name appears on the ballot, doesn’t mean he or she has to actively campaign.

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