Although the ballot contains a number of state and county races and several propositions, Tuesday’s election is really about the race in the 1st Congressional District, where incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop of Southampton, who is seeking a seventh term, is being challenged by State Senator Lee Zeldin, a Republican from Shirley.
In an earlier contest between the two, back in 2008, Mr. Bishop easily turned back the then inexperienced Mr. Zeldin in a race that was no doubt influenced by the surge of support for Democrats nationwide, led by President Barack Obama, in the wake of the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression.
Today, with public opinion of the president at low ebb and Mr. Zeldin polishing his campaign skills, Mr. Bishop faces a much tougher test. That’s a pity because in an age when the public’s attention is typically limited to digesting sound bites, Mr. Bishop is a thoughtful candidate who addresses the issues not only in complete sentences, but in full paragraphs.
That means when Mr. Zeldin shouts, “Cut spending!”, Mr. Bishop points out that with 75 cents of every federal dollar already earmarked for senior citizens, the military or payments on the national debt, simply targeting welfare fraud—one of the few specifics, Mr. Zeldin has offered as a way to cut spending—is not going to go far in the absence of a true bipartisan approach.
When Mr. Zeldin says simply secure the border to deal with illegal immigration, Mr. Bishop counters that a bipartisan Senate bill, which would have done just that as well as deal with the millions of illegals already in the country by giving them a path to citizenship, has been ignored in the fiercely partisan Republican-led House of Representatives.
When Mr. Zeldin says Obamacare is a disaster, Mr. Bishop acknowledges that the Affordable Care Act, while having its faults, is a work in progress that has resulted in millions of Americans, who were previously uninsured, having access to that most vital of safety nets. And he accurately points out that despite Mr. Zeldin’s lip service to retaining portions of the law he supports, the Republicans are interested in nothing less than full repeal.
In the end, while Mr. Zeldin talks a good game and has mastered the ability to sound like all things to all people, he offers an overly simplistic conservative worldview that does not jibe with the pro-environmental, pro-equal rights views of East End voters.
Mr. Bishop’s attention to constituent service and his well earned seniority, which has allowed him to bring home funding for items as diverse as Brookhaven National Laboratory in Brookhaven to the erosion-control project slated for downtown Montauk make him too valuable of a legislator to turn out of office.
It appears obvious that Governor Andrew Cuomo, Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will all easily win reelection, but a pair of longtime state legislators, Independence Party Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Republican State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, are also worthy of voters’ support. Both legislators have played critical roles in helping to protect the East End’s environment, and they have always been there to support local libraries, schools, and other issues of importance to their constituents.
Voters will also be asked to weigh in on six ballot propositions (seven for Southampton voters). A county measure that would restore funds taken from the drinking water protection program and establish more stringent guidelines for how money could be borrowed from the fund deserves support. At the state level, a measure providing for $2 billion in borrowing to beef up technology in the schools is worthy of support. Another measure that aims to take the politics out of election redistricting efforts likely falls short of what is needed, but is a start in the right direction. A Southampton Town measure to allow for the swap of land preserved with CPF money so work can be done on the Riverside traffic circle should be passed as well.