Tag Archive | "Lee Zeldin"

Zeldin Easily Defeats Bishop in 1st District Congressional Race

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Voting in the 2014 Midterm Elections on November 4th, 2014

Voting in Sag Harbor. Michael Heller

 

By Stephen J. Kotz

With a jubilant crowd cheering and chanting, “Lee! Lee! Lee!,” State Senator Lee Zeldin claimed victory Tuesday night in the 1st Congressional District, where he handily defeated six-term Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Bishop.

Although many projected a tight race that might take days, or even weeks to resolve, the contest was over early, with Mr. Zeldin’s lead steadily growing to 55 percent of the vote to Mr. Bishop’s 45 percent by night’s end. According to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Mr. Zeldin received 89,564 votes to Mr. Bishop’s 73,860 votes.

“We can’t change Washington unless we change who we send there to represent us,” Mr. Zeldin told the crowd that had gathered to watch the returns at the Emporium in Patchogue. “And that’s what you did tonight!”

“Across our nation, we took decisive action to fix America,” he said, noting that Republicans had won a majority in the Senate and added to their majority in the House to provide a “much needed check on the agenda of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.”

Mr. Zeldin, who thanked his supporters and party regulars, began his speech with a simple, “Victory is sweet, isn’t it?”

He said he was able to maintain the grind of the campaign trail large part because of the of the focus and drive of his supporters.

Mr. Bishop conceded shortly after 10 p.m. from the Islandia Marriott, where he and his supporters gathered.

“A few minutes ago, I called Senator Zeldin and I offered him my congratulations and I pledged to him the full cooperation of my staff and, of course, me as we go through this transition over the next several weeks,” Mr. Bishop said. “It is a very important job. The people of this district deserve that it be done at the highest possible level. I think we have done that over the 12 years that I have had the good fortune to serve you.”

He added that he and Mr. Zeldin had had a “very gracious conversation.”

“I believe I and my staff have done this job in a way that characterizes or defines professionalism, so we are going to transition from this job in the same way,” he said.

“I want to thank all of you. I got to stand where I am standing 12 years ago in many cases because of the exact same people who are standing here tonight,” Mr. Bishop said.

There were no surprises in other races, although Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., who won his 12th term, received most of his votes as a Democrat, even though he is a member of the Independence Party.

Mr. Thiele received 18,346 votes, or 60.3 percent of the vote on the Democratic, Independence, and Working Families lines, to turn back Republican Heather Collins, who received 9,898 votes, or 32.5 percent of the votes. Brian De Sesa, a Sag Harbor attorney, received 2,162 votes, or 7.1 percent, running on the Conservative line.

But 14,852 of Mr. Thiele’s votes were as a Democrat, while he received only 1,991 from those voting Independence Party and 1,503 on the Working Families line.

“I am extremely grateful to East End voters for their continued confidence in me,” Mr. Thiele said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “I look forward to continuing to advocate for the East End in Albany and improving our quality of life and the outlook for our future.”

Republican State Senator Kenneth P LaValle also cruised to victory to win his 19th two-year term. He received 53,220 votes, or 70.4 percent of the total, to easily defeat Democrat Michael Conroy, who received 22,297 votes, or 29.5 percent of the vote.

In other races, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Governor Kathy C. Hochul turned back the challenge of Republican Rob Astorino and Chris Moss. The Democrats received nearly 54 percent of the vote to 40.5 percent for Mr. Astorino and Mr. Moss.

Also sweeping to victory in state races were Democratic Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who received 60 percent of the vote, to best Republican Robert Antonacci, who received 36.6 percent, and Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who received 55.5 percent of the vote to defeat Republican John Cahill, who received 41.6 percent.

Judith A. Pascale, who was cross-endorsed by Republicans and Democrats, was elected Suffolk County clerk, and Republican John M. Kennedy defeated Democrat James F. Gaughran to win the county comptroller race, receiving 53.2 percent of the vote to Mr. Gaughran’s 46.8 percent.

Three propositions on the state ballot, one aimed at removing politics from the redistricting process; one to allow bills in the state legislature to be sent to members electronically; and another to borrow $2 billion for school technology projects, all passed.

Two county propositions, one that eliminates the office of treasurer and one that repays money borrowed from the county’s clean drinking water fund and tightens rules for how money can be borrowed from the fund in the future, also passed.

A proposition in Southampton Town that would allow the town to swap a parcel of land purchased with money from the Community Preservation Fund with another parcel owned by the county, so improvements can be made to the Riverside traffic circle also passed.

 

Election 2014

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bishop, Zeldin Offer Divergent Views at Debate

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Congressman Tim Bishop addresses the Concerned Citizens of Montauk on Sunday, as his challenger, Lee Zeldin, listens. Michael Heller photo,

Congressman Tim Bishop addresses the Concerned Citizens of Montauk on Sunday, as his challenger, Lee Zeldin, listens. Michael Heller photo.

By Stephen J. Kotz

In what has become an almost daily occurrence in this year’s campaign, the two candidates for Congress in the 1st District, incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop and Republican challenger Lee Zeldin, offered up sharply differing views in a debate last Thursday, October 16.

Mr. Bishop touted his track record of providing excellent constituent service and his ability to bring the federal government “to the table to solve individual problems,” calling it “life-altering work.” He said he was recently told he had “a laser-like focus on my constituents. I took that as very high praise because that is exactly what I have done.”

Mr. Zeldin, who repeatedly attacked the size of government, wasteful spending as well as the domestic and foreign policies of President Barack Obama and said he supported term limits, said Mr. Bishop was part of the problem. “If you elected enough people like my opponent,” he said, “Nancy Pelosi would be the Speaker of the House.”

With the spread of the Ebola virus into the United States a top news story in recent weeks, both candidates said they agreed on at least one thing: that President Obama has not done enough.

“I think the president is making a mistake in not putting into place a travel ban to west Africa,” where the virus is spreading unchecked, said Mr. Bishop. He said he would support reconvening Congress before its scheduled November 12 session to deal with the problem.

Mr. Zeldin described the president’s handling of the health crisis as “terrible” and said it was time to “have maximum security procedures at our airports.”

Last week’s debate, one of some 75 joint appearances by the candidates scheduled between Labor Day and Election Day, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and held at Westhampton Beach High School. The pair also faced off at a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of Montauk on Sunday.

Both candidates spent a considerable amount of time complaining about the negative tone the campaign has taken, with political action committees on both sides filling mailboxes with literature and radio and television with ads targeting the opponent.

Mr. Zeldin said “Nancy Pelosi’s super PAC is spending seven figures targeting us, trying to scare women” into believing that if he were elected women would wind up paying more for health care coverage and lose the right to have abortions. Other campaign literature wrongly suggested he would require taxpayers to foot the bill for corporate polluters, Mr. Zeldin complained.

“You can repeat a lie over and over and over again and eventually people will be believe it,” he said.

That brought a chuckle from Mr. Bishop. “It’s pretty cheeky on the part of my opponent to talk about our end, given the scurrilous nature of the ads his side is running against us,” he said.

The incumbent Congressman said Supreme Court rulings opening campaigns to unlimited corporate and special interest financing were “fundamentally imperiling our democracy. We are now in the realm where elections are bought and sold as opposed to won or lost,” he said.

Mr. Zeldin complained that a Bishop ad campaign was trying to scare senior citizens into believing he wanted to cut Social Security payments. “I would never vote for any piece of legislation that would take one dime away from anyone who is a senior or close to retirement,” Mr. Zeldin said.

But Mr. Bishop said Mr. Zeldin has in the past supported the idea of allowing those 40 and younger to put their Social Security withholding into personal investment accounts. “That’s privatization, folks,” he said. And the result would be dramatic shortfall in funding for the Social Security trust fund, which would require a reduction in benefits paid to current retirees.

“We either tell seniors we were only kidding or we borrow,” said Mr. Bishop, adding, “My opponent obviously does not understand how the trust fund works.”

The $17.8 billion national debt is growing beyond control, according to Mr. Zeldin, who said both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations had spent too much money. “We need to pick a number…. $18 trillion? $20 trillion? $22 trillion? When is enough in regards to our nation’s debt,” he said.

“The easiest thing in the world is to say cut spending,” responded Mr. Bishop. “The hardest thing in the world is to actually do it.”

To illustrate his point, he said 48 cents of every federal dollar is earmarked for retirees, 18 cents for defense and 9 cents for interest on the national debt. That leaves only 25 cents of every federal dollar eligible for cuts, he said, adding that he was not going to be the one to cut Social Security payments, veterans’ healthcare or federal law enforcement.”

Mr. Zeldin said that more needs to be done to reduce welfare fraud and provide private sector jobs to entice people to leave the unemployment rolls.

“The incumbent is not giving you a single thing that is going to make this bloated federal government operate more efficiently,” Mr Zeldin said.

“What the incumbent Congressman has done was vote for a piece of legislation that capped the growth of domestic spending and saved $2 trillion,” Mr. Bishop shot back.

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was also a topic of contention, with Mr. Zeldin saying there were portions of the sweeping healthcare legislation that should be preserved, such as allowing children to remain on their parents’ policies until the age of 26 and the requirement that prevents insurers from refusing coverage to those with preexisting conditions. But most of the program needs to be scrapped because it has resulted in higher premiums, fewer choices for consumers and other problems,” he said.

“There should be a productive dialog between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives” to fix the healthcare system, he said.

“I suppose that conversation should begin with repeal rather than fixing,” said Mr. Bishop, pointing out that “there is no commitment on the part of the majority party to fix it,” noting that the House has voted more than 50 times, along party lines, to repeal the legislation. He described it as “a work in progress” that needs to be improved. “There are many good things that we should keep and build on and elements that we should fix,” he said.

On immigration, Mr. Zeldin said the first order of business was to tighten border security. “When you a leak, the first thing you do is shut off the faucet,” he said. “You don’t grab a mop.”

Mr. Bishop said that the Republican-controlled House has refused to recognize the need to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here. A bipartisan Senate bill offered increased border security as well as a path to citizenship, he said, but the House would not act on it. “Is it perfect?” he said. “No. But it is a way that is dealing with a problem that has no easy solutions.”

Mr. Zeldin also criticized President Obama’s leadership against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, saying the president’s strategy would never be successful in defeating the militants. For his part, Mr. Bishop cited the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who told a Senate committee there was no easy way to militarily defeat ISIS. Mr. Bishop said he would not support a return of American troops to Iraq.

The candidates parted along predictable party lines on a number of other issues, with Mr. Bishop supporting an increase in the minimum wage, a woman’s right to have an abortion, and same sex marriage, while Mr. Zeldin said a minimum wage hike would backfire, that he was pro-life and that he believed marriage should be considered between a man and a woman.

Mr., Bishop said he would work for federal money to help solve some of the growing problems with Long Island’s groundwater, while Mr. Zeldin said he thought such solutions were better left at the state and local level.

Although it is a state initiative, Mr. Zeldin said he opposed Common Core, which he said was setting school children up to fail, while Mr. Bishop said he supported higher educational standards and recognized that the “rollout of Common Core was the only thing that could make the rollout of Obamacare look good.”

Meet the Candidates Night Becomes One-Man Show

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U.S. Representative Tim Bishop listened to Sag Harbor resident Bob Malafronte at an evening sponsored by the Noyac Civic Council. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

What was supposed to be a meet the candidates night with U.S. Representative Tim Bishop and his Republican challenger, Lee Zeldin, sponsored by the Noyac Civic Council Tuesday night, instead turned out to be a one-man show featuring Mr. Bishop.

Citing a scheduling conflict, Mr. Zeldin first tried to cancel his appearance Tuesday afternoon, before agreeing to arrive at 9 p.m., two hours after his scheduled slot, to informally meet voters.

The Republicans sent Southampton Town Trustee Ed Warner as a stand-in, who deferred most questions of national issues to Mr. Zeldin.

Noyac Civic Council president Elena Loreto on Tuesday said that Mr. Zeldin’s camp had informed her its candidate would not be able to attend the event at 2 p.m. that day, citing another scheduled appearance upisland and despite confirming on Friday that he would appear.

Mr. Bishop said at his previous appearances before the council, helicopter noise was the chief concern. This time none of the two dozen people attending asked about that, instead peppering him with questions about everything from budgets to energy policy.

In his opening statement, Mr. Bishop said he was proud of his record of constituent service and cited his role as one of four sponsors of federal waterways legislation, which he described as one of only 26 pieces of “substantive legislation” passed by the current Congress. The bill successful, he said, because its sponsors engaged in the lost art of compromise, which, he said, has become a “four-letter word” in Washington.

Mr. Bishop said he was particularly proud of his role in helping reform the federal student loan program, which he said, ended $61 billion in bank subsidies and resulted in an additional $26 billion being funneled to Pell Grants to aid the neediest students.

“I ran for Congress because I wanted to be a voice for the middle class,” Mr. Bishop said, recounting how his father used to work an average of  80 hours a week for the phone company to put five children through college. “I used to hate the phone company because I couldn’t understand how they could make this guy who had five kids work every Christmas.” It was only when he was in college, he said, that he learned that his father had put in for the overtime.

Audience members had some tough questions. Reg Cornelia of Springs, said Democrats had prevented inquiries into many scandals.

“What bugs me the most is this IRS scandal,” Mr. Cornelia said. “You and your colleagues have done everything to thwart this investigation.”

“Your characterization is simply not accurate,” Mr. Bishop responded, pointing out that the Internal Revenue Service’s inspector general, a nonpartisan investigator, had determined that the IRS had simply not targeted Tea Party organizations in its efforts to determine whether political groups qualified for tax exempt status, but had also investigated liberal organizations.

Carole Campolo, another East Hampton resident, said the country has been brought to the precipice of financial calamity annually and asked why the federal government has failed to pass a budget since 2009.

Mr. Bishop said that while the budget itself may be an “overrated document” in that Congress achieves the same ends by passing appropriations bills, he said it was a “bipartisan failure,” said that both President Bush and President Obama had sent annual budget proposals to Congress.

Stu Jones, another East Hampton resident, said it was his understanding that no more soldiers were being sent to Afghanistan, but said his son had just received his third posting there. Mr. Bishop thanked Mr. Jones for his son’s service, but explained his being sent back to Afghanistan had to do with troop rotations, not a clandestine increase in force levels.

“If it was up to me I would have been out of Afghanistan a long time ago, and if was up to me I have never gone into Iraq,” Mr. Bishop said. “I think that was the single greatest foreign policy mistake this nation has ever made.’

James Sanford of Sag Harbor wanted to know why New Yorkers pay more for natural gas, a problem he said was caused by a shortage of pipelines and storage capability. He also wanted to know Mr. Bishop’s position on fracking.

The congressman responded that most pipelines are privately owned said he saw no “federal impediment” to more lines being built. As to fracking, Mr. Bishop said he supported Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cautious approach, saying a national policy has to be formulated for dealing with wastewater.

Gene  Polito of Noyac pressed Mr. Bishop on his support of natural gas as a source of energy, saying “global warming is for real” and carbon dioxide levels had to be reduced. “We ignore its implications at its own peril,” he said.

Janet Verneuille of Sag Harbor wanted to know what Mr. Bishop’s stance on the practice of corporations moving their headquarters offshore to save on taxes and asked if he favored lowering the American corporate tax rate.

“I think it is an obscenity that corporations are more interested in the bottom line than in the country that has allowed them to be successful,” Mr. Bishop said, pointing out that they had benefited from a publicly educated workforce and publicly provided infrastructure.

He added, though, that while the American corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world the actual amount collected as a percentage of gross domestic product is the lowest. He said he favored reforming the corporate tax structure.

Nada Barry of Sag Harbor asked about the prospects for meaningful immigration reform. Mr. Bishop said he was not optimistic and said when the Senate passed a decent bill, House Speaker John Boehner announced it “dead on arrival.”

 

Sag Harbor Votes For Change In Historic National Election

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While Bay Street Theatre may not have been able to boast the crowds that packed Chicago’s Grant Park, on Tuesday night there was a palpable sense of excitement in Sag Harbor as village residents gathered at the theatre, The American Hotel and Bay Burger to bear witness to the historic Presidential election of Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Obama, the Democratic candidate, was not just successful in the Electoral College, where he bested Republican Arizona Senator John McCain 349 to 163, with 26 electoral votes out of North Carolina and Missouri still hanging in the balance as of Wednesday, but took states like Indiana and Virginia – states that had not voted for a Democratic president in decades. He was also able to easily take the popular vote collecting roughly 63 million votes to McCain’s 56 million.

Nationally, an estimated 64 percent of the electorate turned out on Tuesday to cast their ballots for president – a record turnout. However, residents of Suffolk County appear to take their voting seriously year in and year out, with an estimated 70 percent of registered voters pulling the lever for a presidential candidate this election cycle. In 2004, about 72 percent of the electorate stepped out to vote in the presidential contest between Democrat John Kerry and President George W. Bush.

As was the case in 2004, a majority of Suffolk County and East End residents voted for the Democratic candidate this year, with Obama taking approximately 52 percent of the votes cast to McCain’s 47 percent. On the East End, and in particularly Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Noyac, North Haven and Sagaponack Obama won by far greater margins.

On the Southampton Town side of Sag Harbor (districts 1 and 21) 741 voters turned out to support Obama, with McCain earning 309 votes. On the East Hampton side of Sag Harbor, 515 residents turned out in support of the Democratic candidate, with 124 voting for McCain. In Northwest Woods, 533 of the electorate pulled the lever for Obama with 232 voting for McCain.

In Noyac (districts 2 and 36), Obama took 725 votes with McCain clocking in with 428. In North Haven-Baypoint, voters handed Obama 432 votes and McCain a solid 368. In Bridgehampton and Sagaponack (districts 3 and 13), Obama snared 830 votes to McCain’s 369.

While there may have been a number of supporters of the Republican candidate on the East End, at Bay Street Theatre and The American Hotel on Tuesday night, prior to the election being called in Obama’s favor, it was as if he had already won the race with many residents offering their enthusiasm and advice for the man who would later that evening become the United State’s first African-American President.

Sag Harbor resident Mia Grosjean said she had little advice for the president-elect, as he already seemed to be moving in the direction she supports – community activism.

“Encourage young people to remain active, get involved and make a difference,” piped in Helen Samuels of her hopes for Obama.

“Govern with peace and justice,” advised Dennis Carr.

Many also spoke of their desire to see a country united, and their hope the 47-year old senator will be the man to do just that.

“To make people proud to be in this country and to make it something it was when I was a child,” said North Haven resident Richard Demato of his hopes for the Obama regime. “Make it something to be excited about.”

“I want him to bring us together,” said another guest at The American Hotel on Tuesday night. “And never forget he’s the president of the whole country.”

 Congressman Tim Bishop, who handily regained his seat in the United States House of Representatives securing 58 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Lee Zeldin’s 42 percent, had similar thoughts about the future of the federal government and the mandate he says the American people have now handed the Democratic Party, which will have control of the House, the Senate and the Executive branches.

“I think that it gives us great hope for the future,” said Bishop. “I think the other thing is we have to be very careful to not make the same mistakes the Republican Party made when it had a majority, where the national party really allowed itself to be moved to the right. We, as a party, need to resist the temptation to move to the far left. We need to recognize that we need to achieve balance and govern from the middle. That is Obama’s message, and it is an important one.”

Like Obama, Bishop took every election district in Sag Harbor, Noyac, North Haven and Baypoint, in Northwest Woods, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack, often securing more than double the votes Zeldin was able to gather in his inaugural bid for political office.

In a prime example of the continued success of the Democratic Party on Tuesday, Democrat Sally Pope bested incumbent Republican Dan Russo to earn a seat on the Southampton Town Board securing 52 percent of the vote to Russo’s 48 percent by a narrow margin of 741 votes. However, with over 2,000 absentee ballots expected to be counted next Wednesday, Russo has said the race is too close to call.

According to preliminary results out of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Russo was only able to win two districts in our area – one in Sagaponack-Bridgehampton (district 13) and the other in Noyac (district 36). Pope took the remaining districts in Sag Harbor, one in Noyac, in North Haven and another in Bridgehampton.

Sag Harbor resident and Democratic candidate for Southampton Town Justice Andrea Schiavoni also appears to have been successful in her attempt to oust Republican justice Thomas DeMayo, taking 56.5 percent of the electorate to DeMayo’s 43.5 percent by earning 2,822 more votes than the incumbent. Schiavoni won all districts in Sag Harbor, Noyac, North Haven and Baypoint, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton and in Northwest Woods.

One Republican on the East End who coasted to victory with relative ease was incumbent New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. who won his seat over Democratic challenger W. Michael Pitcher with 63 percent of the vote to Pitcher’s 37 percent. Thiele was victorious by over 12,000 votes.

New York State Senator Ken LaValle, a Republican incumbent who was running unopposed also earned reelection in Tuesday’s race.

But like many Republicans nationwide, Thiele is looking at a Democratic majority, not just in the assembly, but likely in the senate with a Democratic governor in place.

However, Thiele is not worried, noting he was pleased to see 15 percent of voters who turned out to support him did so under party lines that were not Republican, meaning those outside his party supported his bid for reelection.

“My approach has always been to not be overtly partisan,” said Thiele. “I think that is what people are looking for in government.”

 

Focus On Economy As Congressional Race Nears

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With just a month left before East End residents hit voting booths on November 4, incumbent U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop, a Democrat, finds himself in a race for his seat in the House of Representatives against a 28-year-old attorney and Iraqi war veteran, Republican Lee Zeldin who has thrown his hat — and divergent opinions — into the political ring.

This week, both candidates took some time to discuss a wide range of issues as they look towards squaring off in a League of Women Voters of the Hamptons sponsored debate in Hamptons Bays on October 16 at 7 p.m.

With brokers on Wall Street and residents on Main Street watching news on the nation’s uncertain economy with trepidation, Bishop and Zeldin present differing opinions on the cause, and ultimate solution to what has emerged as one of the central questions this political season.

Bishop, a 12th generation Southampton Town resident and former provost at Southampton College, sees a number of issues driving an unstable economy — an economy he says is a result of eight years of failed economic policies under president George W. Bush’s administration.

“That was exacerbated by a serious meltdown in the housing market, which has now brought rise to serious freezing of the credit market,” explained Bishop on Tuesday. “We have people losing jobs, the cost of everything is going up. We have diminished credit markets and a spike in foreclosures. So I see at the very least four severe, but interrelated problems.”

Bishop says the government must be an active part of a solution to mitigate these problems, with the recently passed $700 billion bailout bill as just a piece of the solution.

“I am very hopeful that once it starts to move, once it starts to work through the financial system it will have beneficial results,” he said.

Bishop also calls for a second economic stimulus package to compliment the package passed by Congress last February. The House of Representatives did pass a $66 billion stimulus package two weeks ago with some bi-partisan support, noted Bishop, although the bill was stalled in the Senate. He said it went a long way towards helping those who will feel this economic pinch the most by, in part, extending unemployment limits and providing monies to states for infrastructure, which in turn would create employment opportunities.

While Zeldin, a Shirley resident, acknowledges the country is in the midst of a financial crisis, he disagrees that the $700 billion bailout plan, in either incarnation, is the solution the American people need to get through the predicament.

“I don’t believe Main Street should have to bail out Wall Street,” said Zeldin. “Seven hundred billion, not to mention all the added pork, made it a bill I truly lost sleep over when it passed.”

Zeldin did argue that private capital, rather than taxpayer dollars, should have been injected into Wall Street.

He added that he sees himself disagreeing with a number of Washington insiders when it comes to the subject, noting not just Democrats, but Republicans, including president Bush and presidential candidate John McCain have disagreed, supporting the bail out instead.

“I see things, unfortunately, in the short term, getting worse before they get better,” said Zeldin. “We are going into a winter where people are going to be shocked by high heating costs in [comparison to what will amount to] a small mortgage payment. So for many of us living paycheck to paycheck, it will be a rough winter.”

Ultimately, Zeldin believes government needs to curb wasteful spending before it will truly help the American people, calling for an earmark moratorium until the system is fixed to where it no longer represents quid pro quo between politicians and lobbyists. He would also like to see untaxed income that leaves the country through money wiring services taxed and given back to the communities it originates from to bring down the costs of school and property taxes.

 Zeldin sees that issue tied directly to what he called the government’s failed immigration policies. For the last two years, H-2B visas have been a source of contention for local business reliant on the federal program for legal, seasonal workers from overseas. In recent years, the program has been limited, leaving many without a seasonal workforce.

Zeldin said more H-2B visas should be granted, but added there also needs to be accountability enforced when it comes to immigration policies.

“When I started my race in Amagansett in January of 2008, I talked to someone with a small business that was going under because he refused to pay employees off the books, which would have allowed him to compete with those not paying taxes for their workers or workman’s compensation,” said Zeldin. “That is a real problem.”

Bishop, who has worked with local business leaders in trying to find a solution to the H-2B crisis, acknowledged he and other members of Congress from areas dependent on seasonal tourism were unsuccessful in their fight to fix the situation.

“We will go back at it this winter,” he said. “Unfortunately, the H-2B visa problem got caught up in the larger issue of the immigration debate.”

Bishop still supports the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, which would have provided a path to citizenship or legal status for a number of illegal immigrants currently working or living in the United States.

“It’s a good bill,” said Bishop. “I believe we need to somehow summon the wisdom and political will to act on that. But at minimum, we have to fix the H-2B visa problems and the agricultural visa issues. Talk to vineyard owners and small vegetable farmers on the North Fork. Eighty eight percent say they can accommodate no loss in their immigrant work force.”

Zeldin said he does not support McCain-Kennedy, and would rather see those immigrants in the United States assimilate into the country, rather than the country assimilate to them.

Bishop sees his work on a number of issues including Federal Aviation Administration legislation to mandate altitude limits for helicopters, work with the Army Corps of Engineers for a Fire Island to Montauk coastal erosion study, and tax initiatives to prevent farmers from having to sell their land in the face of looming estate taxes as just a few he is tackling in his sixth year as a congressman.

“I think my opponent is offering a lot more of the same,” said Bishop. “I offer the same level of commitment I have for the last six years and I believe with my experience and I believe with a majority in the house, the senate and, I am fairly certain, the White House, I will be in a position to influence policy decisions.”

If elected, Zeldin has a number of initiatives he would like to explore, including pushing the East End to the forefront of environmental sustainability, he said. But ultimately, he sees his values as what should ultimately give him an edge over Bishop come November.

“Adding my voice to congress is adding an independent voice who understands no leader in any party is right serving this congressional district by voting with his party 99 percent of the time,” said Zeldin, attacking a predisposition by Bishop, he said, towards simply voting his party line. “What we need is to send a bulldog to Washington that is going to fight for us, stand up for us across party lines … we need to be more fiscally responsible in how we tax and spend.”