A State Senate campaign on Long Island is turning into one of the most competitive legislative battles this fall as its outcome could have a major impact in the capitol next year. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
The fervor of the Tea Party movement is palpable in Long Island's 3rd Senate District where angry voters are trying hard to oust the incumbent, Democrat Brian Foley.
Protestors often dog the lawmaker on the campaign trail -- something the freshman senator condemns as being intimidating behavior.
"Confronting and also intimidating some of my staff. They were actually knocking on windows of cars at events that I was holding," Foley says.
Foley's challenger, Iraq War veteran Lee Zeldin, is the man some outspoken voters hope will represent them in Albany next year.
Zeldin insists his camp isn't behind the confrontations, saying voters are simply riled up because Foley sold out his district.
"He wasn't representing his district, he was representing his party and his party leadership happens to be based out of New York City," Zeldin says.
The normally quiet suburban district could be the difference between a Democratic or Republican controlled senate, which is why both GOP and Democratic senate campaign committees are throwing a lot of resources into the race.
Just last Saturday, Democratic Candidate for Governor Andrew Cuomo stumped for Foley in Patchogue -- his only public effort so far to help Democrats maintain the senate majority.
Foley says voters barely know his challenger and believes his record of reform is resonating.
"When I go around the district they see that we've been able to bring very important dollars back to the district," Foley says.
The highly contested area covers part of Long Island's south shore where voter registration is almost evenly divided between Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
Zeldin says residents are angry over over education cuts, the added burden of a new payroll tax, and reduced property tax relief -- all of which Foley voted for.
"Over the course of the past year and a half he's done plenty to hurt his constituents," Zeldin says.
Foley counters that hard decisions had to be made during the recession. But they may prove fatal to his senate career.
Recent polls show the two men are in a dead heat.